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Sean Payton’s Contract and A Potential Trade

In 2022, Former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton announced he was stepping away after 15 seasons leading the team, including winning Super Bowl XLIV in 2009. Since then, Payton has worked as a studio analyst for Fox. Recently, Payton has interviewed (or will interview) with multiple teams, including the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers, and appears to be ready to return to the sidelines. However, many fans are wondering why Payton is not free to sign with any team of his choice.

Contract Explained

In September 2019, the Saints and Payton announced a five-year contract extension, keeping Payton as head coach of the Saints until 2024. Payton abruptly stepped away in 2022, but even when a coach retires, the team retains the coach’s rights for the remainder of the contract term. Thus, until the coach’s contract expires, a former club (in this case, the Saints) must receive compensation for the coach’s (Payton) rights. A coach is not able to freely sign with another team. Similar rules exist for player retirements.

The most recent example of a team trading for a coach is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers trading for Bruce Arians in 2019. Bruce Arians stepped away from coaching the Arizona Cardinals in 2017. After the Cardinals and Arians signed a contract extension in 2015, the Cardinals retired the rights to Arians through the 2019 season. When Arians decided to return to coaching in 2019, the Buccaneers gave the Cardinals a sixth-round pick in exchange for the coach.

Payton is likely to command much more than a sixth-round pick. After leading the Saints to sixth NFC South titles, eight playoff berths, and a Super Bowl, compensation likely will include a first round pick and more. Coaches of Payton’s caliber are rarely available, but due to the Saints holding Payton’s rights, teams have more to think about than the coach’s annual salary. In the end, it may be worth it for teams looking for immediate success.

Landis Barber is an attorney at Safran Law Offices in Raleigh, North Carolina. You can connect with him via LinkedIn or via his blog He can be reached on Twitter @Landisbarber.

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