The Broncos Are Betting Big That Sean Payton Can Fix Russell Wilson

The Saints will get a first- and second-round pick from Denver for Payton

NFL head coach Sean Payton prior to a 2022 game.
Former Saints head coach Sean Payton is taking his talents to Denver.
Todd Kirkland/Getty

After possibly making overtures to hire former San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans for the second time on Tuesday before he committed to take over as the head coach of the Houston Texans, the Broncos agreed to trade multiple draft picks to the Saints to bring former New Orleans coach Sean Payton to Denver.

In exchange for sending Payton, who coached the Saints in the 2021 season following the departure of Drew Brees but stayed on the sidelines for the 2022 season, to Denver, the pick-needy Broncos agreed to send a 2023 first-round pick and a 2024 second-round pick out to the Mile Hile City and will get a 2024 third-round pick back in addition to the 59-year-old coach.

For a team that is light on future assets after surrendering a king’s ransom to bring Russell Wilson to town before the season and then seeing the season go down the toilet very quickly, it was a high price to pay. However, given the magic that Payton was able to work for more than a decade with his previous undersized quarterback (Brees), it will be well worth it for the Broncos if Wilson is somehow able to return to Pro Bowl form under a new coach. But bringing in Payton was not cheap as the Broncos reportedly agreed to give him a contract of at least five years worth somewhere between $17 million and $20 million annually, according to 9News.

There’s a chance it will work as Wilson, who had a career-low 84.4 passer rating with a career-low 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions to go along with a career-high 55 sacks last season, wanted Payton to come to Denver and reportedly called him during the recruiting process.

Just a year and six days removed from stepping down as the head coach of the Saints following a strong 16-year tenure that included a Super Bowl win, Payton will have a quarterback who won a Super Bowl, a strong defense and a number of talented, albeit not outstanding, offensive playmakers at his disposal. What he won’t have is a lot of wiggle room as the Broncos gave up a lot of draft capital in the past two offseasons and will have to figure out a way to compete with star quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs and Justin Herbert of the Los Angeles Chargers in the AFC West with limited resources outside of cash.

For what it’s worth, Payton sounds up to the challenge. “Russell is a hard worker and has played at a high level and won a lot of games in this league,” Payton told “The pressure is on us to put a good run game together and reduce the degree of difficulty on his position. I’m excited about him. This was the opportunity I was looking for.”

Given what happened last season, let’s see if Payton feels the same way in training camp once Wilson suits up.

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