New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, who is currently serving a yearlong suspension, is set to become a free agent at the end of this season after his multi-year contract extension in September 2011 was voided by the NFL within the past year according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The extension would have kept Payton in New Orleans through the 2015 season, but a clause in the contact is the specific reason why the NFL decided to void it. The clause states that Payton could walk away from the deal if general manager Mickey Loomis was fired, suspended, or left the organization under any circumstances that were deemed to be unsatisfactory by the league.
The NFL felt that the clause would have set a horrible pattern for future coaching contracts and denied the deal months before Loomis was set to serve his eight game suspension for his role in the bounty scandal.
Ironically, Saints owner Tom Benson announced the extension last year which did not receive approval from the league.
“I am very pleased to announce this contract extension today for Sean that will run through the 2015 season,” Benson said. “Our goal is to continue to build a tradition of winning here in New Orleans and Sean represents that tradition.”
In March, Payton visited the NFL offices to appeal his suspension in connection with the bounty scandal, he then asked NFL commissioner Roger Goodell about the status of his contract extension and was informed that the contract was unacceptable, according to Schefter.
Both sides attempted to resolve the matter, but were unable to in numerous attempts that date back to the beginning of this year.
The NFL released a statement Sunday morning, saying it had “made no determination” on the status of Payton’s contract for next year.
“All contracts between clubs and their employees must be approved by the commissioner, and we do not comment on specific terms of individual contracts,” the statement said. “Any comment regarding the matter should come from Coach Payton and the Saints.”
There are some in the league office that believe Payton’s contract will be put on hold, meaning he would be the head coach in New Orleans for the 2013 season. But others believe that he will become a free agent.
The struggling Dallas Cowboys are one of the teams that have risen to surface in being interested in Payton if he is a free agent. Payton served as assistant head coach from 2003 to 2005 for the Cowboys and purchased a house in the city early last year.
Current Cowboys coach Jason Garret is in his second year after finishing 8-8 last year. He has been scrutinized the past couple of weeks with bad play-calling and clock management issues, which has them at 3-4 for the season.
Earlier in the season Cowboys owner Jerry Jones expressed that the window of opportunity was closing on his team. The Cowboys have not made a playoff appearance since 2009, and if they do not make playoffs this season he may possibly replace Garrett with Payton.