METAIRIE, La. — New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis isn’t going to keep former coach Sean Payton back from reentering the league this year, but he said that return would come with a price.
Loomis has maintained his appreciation for Payton, who coached the team from 2006-2021 and led them to their only Super Bowl win.
The Saints knew immediately there was a possibility Payton could return in 2023 after he stepped down after the 2021 season. Loomis said he has not wanted to stand in the way of that process, but acknowledged they still want a fair return for the final two seasons of Payton’s contract.
“It’s complicated,” Loomis said Monday when asked his thoughts on Payton’s return. “Because, look, I have such great respect for him. He’s a close friend of mine. He’s a great coach. All those things. And I want the best for him. I do. We do, collectively as an organization. He gave everything he could possibly give to the New Orleans Saints and took us to heights that the organization and team never achieved before. So, I absolutely want the best for him. But I also recognize that he’s a valuable asset, his contract is a valuable asset to our club, and it’s our duty to maximize that. Look, I think between the quarterback, or a head coach, no one impacts winning more than those two guys in any building. So, I know what he brings to the table and I know that’s really valuable. And it’s our obligation to maximize that value if he chooses to coach again within that time frame where we have those rights.”
The Denver Broncos, Arizona Cardinals and Houston Texans have all reached out and received permission to interview Payton as soon as NFL rules allow, Loomis confirmed. The Saints have not been asked by, or declined permission to, any other team.
“They have to get our permission to have a discussion with him. And then we have to have the compensation settled before they can actually make an offer to hire him,” Loomis said.
Loomis said the compensation involved would be different for each team depending on the assets available, so he didn’t want to get into specifics. The Saints have no first-round pick in 2023 after making a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles last year, but potential compensation for Payton did not factor into that decision.
“I’ve never counted on getting anything for Sean because he might decide to do the media deal for five years, who knows?” Loomis said. “So we weren’t spending draft capital going forward hoping we might get something if he decides to coach again.”
Loomis said all of the teams who have received permission already know the general range of compensation the Saints want.
“We haven’t settled on exactly what the compensation is going to be yet. They’re well aware there is going to be compensation,” Loomis said.
Loomis also said that Dennis Allen will be coaching the Saints in 2023 despite a 7-10 record in Allen’s first season. The Saints largely kept the coaching staff the same in the transition from Payton to Allen and have not yet made any decision about changes to the assistant staff this year.
“One of the things that we’ve had going for us for the last 15 years or whatever it’s been is stability,” Loomis said. “I think that’s a commodity that is hard to come by in the NFL. So we’ve been looking for stability and that obviously starts with ownership and GM and head coach and having a core group of players that you nurture and develop and so that’s the attitude that we have and that’s the process and that’s the things we believe in and so I’m expecting to continue that.”
Loomis said he wasn’t too worried about the possibility of Payton poaching assistants when putting together a new staff.
“Our guys are under contract, so the only guys who could actually move without our permission are guys that are being promoted into coordinator positions. So it’s not really a real need. I’m sure if there was somebody they really wanted, who was a lateral move, he could call and ask and we’d probably say no,” Loomis said, laughing.