Sean Payton is a popular man these days. The former New Orleans Saints head coach is mulling a return to the NFL in 2023, and clubs are starting to line up for his services. The leader in the clubhouse appears to be the Denver Broncos, although CBS Sports NFL Insider Josina Anderson reported Monday that no second interview has been scheduled with Payton just yet and that they have not zeroed in on anyone at this time. 

That said, the Broncos have previously made their intentions of wooing Payton quite clear, but there are also three more teams in the mix: Houston Texans, Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals Houston has interviewed him, and Payton, an NFL analyst for Fox Sports this season, told "The Herd" with Colin Cowherd last week that he was set to meet with Panthers owner David Tepper, which reportedly occurred on Friday. 

Tepper has made his desire to land Payton crystal clear, saying he would give the coach "just about anything he wants" according to The Washington Post. However, the same report casted doubt on Payton's interest in Carolina. The top quarterbacks on the Panthers depth chart, Sam Darnold and PJ Walker, are both set to hit free agency this offseason, leaving Carolina with 2022 third-round pick, Matt Corral, as the only player at that position on the roster. Corral suffered a season-ending foot injury in the preseason. However, the Panthers do have the ninth overall pick in the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft. 

As of Jan. 17, teams have been in the clear to formally interview Payton. Informal discussions were permitted if granted by the Saints. Of course, whatever team ultimately strikes a deal with Payton for him to become its next head coach would then need to have a discussion with the Saints as it relates to compensation, since the franchise still holds his rights.

Payton recently revealed that he has had conversations with Saints general manager Mickey Loomis and that the trade compensation required to get him will be "a mid-to-late first-round pick."

According to The Advocate, Payton is seeking a contract that pays him $20 million to $25 million per year over a four-year period. Coaching salaries are not public, but it's believed that salary would make him among the highest-paid coaches in the league, and the Broncos' new ownership group could certainly afford that type of salary. 

Before stepping down after last season, Payton had been in New Orleans since 2013. He is 152-89 as a head coach in the regular season and 9-8 in the playoffs, which includes a Super Bowl XLIV victory.

Among other contenders, Arizona is in the midst of a seismic shake-up after firing Kingsbury and seeing GM Steve Keim step down from his role due to health reasons. A veteran coach like Payton would be a welcome sight to an organization that is looking to contend sooner rather than later, especially after inking Kyler Murray to a massive contract extension just prior to the start of the season.

The Texans quickly requested permission to interview Payton for their head coaching job in the aftermath of firing Lovie Smith, per Fox Sports. Unlike Denver and Arizona and similarly to the Panthers, the Texans are a bit more of a blank page and have no franchise quarterback already established. However, the club does have the No. 2 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, so that destination could be attractive if Payton has his eyes on any of the top quarterback prospects.