The question has been a popular one in recent days: Where will exiled coach Sean Payton coach once he returns to the NFL?
The answer might be a simple one. Saints owner Tom Benson is strongly considering making Payton the highest-paid coach in football, according to league sources.
|More on New Orleans Saints|
Payton wants to be the highest-paid, and Benson might be willing to accomodate him. Patriots coach Bill Belichick is the NFL's highest paid coach, checking in at a reported $7.5 million per year.
Benson, I'm told, has long thought of Payton as the best coach in football. It was Payton, of course, who made the Saints one of the most unlikely champions in all of sports. Benson has never forgotten what Payton did and wants to reward him for that, I'm told.
Benson also feels strongly that the Saints' slow start to the season (the team is performing better now) isn't as much about Bountygate as it is about not having Payton for the season.
Benson, I'm told, also believes it is imperative to head off any potential suitors. Though it remains unclear what exactly Payton's contractual status will be once he returns, Benson wants to take no chances.
Benson is also extremely loyal to Payton, a loyalty increased by Bountygate. Benson, these sources say, remains extremely irritated over the length of the suspensions. He met with Roger Goodell in August to express his displeasure.
Benson, in effect, wants to stop any possible end run around him to get to Payton. While Payton's name has been linked to the Dallas Cowboys, the belief around the league is the best possible suitor is Philadelphia. It appears increasingly likely that Andy Reid will be fired. The Cleveland Browns should also not be ruled out of any possible Payton sweepstakes.
In the past, Benson was known for not paying his top players or coaches, well, top dollar. Yes, he was considered cheap.
No longer. The contract that Benson gave Drew Brees was one of the richest in league history. Brees received a salary averaging $20 million per season, $60 million in guaranteed money and a $37 million signing bonus.
And it sounds like Benson is about to open his checkbook nice and wide for Payton.