Given that the Saints have permission to finalize their contract extension with coach Sean Payton now and that no other team can talk to him until his suspension ends after the Super Bowl, Payton’s current employer has a huge advantage when it comes to the question of continuing his employment.
But that doesn’t mean they’ll wrap things up quickly.
Ed Werder of ESPN reports that G.M. Mickey Loomis, whose suspension ended the moment the final gun sounded to cap Monday night’s win over the Eagles, won’t rush to get the deal done.
In theory, the approach makes sense. If the Saints are too anxious to get a deal done, Payton gets more leverage — and in turn more money. That said, Mike Freeman of CBSSports.com has reported that owner Tom Benson already plans to make Payton the highest-paid coach in the NFL.
If Loomis waits too long to iron things out, and if Payton inches closer to the open market, there could be a point where Payton decides to let the market determine his value. As we’ve previously explained, the fact that another team can’t even talk to Payton until February will make it much more difficult (and risky) for a team like the Cowboys or Eagles to wait for a crack at Payton.
It also raises the possibility of tampering and/or a violation of the terms of Payton’s suspension, via secret communications aimed at determining Payton’s terms and intentions well before February.
The team has an ace in the hole, if push comes to shove. As we explained the moment the story broke, any dispute regarding whether the final year of Payton’s contract carries over to 2013 given his suspension ultimately would be determined by Commissioner Roger Goodell. Mike Triplett of the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that neither the team nor Payton have filed a request for Goodell to resolve the issue. If that happens, Goodell will naturally be inclined to find in favor of the team, especially since the departure of Payton from New Orleans would result in even more criticism of the league office and Goodell specifically.
Ultimately, Payton could file a challenge in court to the arbitration decision, advancing the same arguments that the suspended players in the bounty case have articulated regarding Goodell’s alleged bias against Payton.
Until the situation is resolved via a new contract for Payton, Saints fans have every right to be nervous. That’s why it makes sense for the Saints to get this thing done sooner rather than later.