ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting that the NFL will void the extension signed in 2011 by Saints coach Sean Payton and that he could be a free agent after this season.
The issue was a provision in his deal that would let Payton void his contract if GM Mickey Loomis was suspended, fired or quit the team. The NFL rejected that provision right away, believing it would set a bad precedent for other coaches. Since that time, the league and the team were working on fixing the language of the deal, but never came to an agreement. Now they've simply decided to void it, meaning Payton's deal ends after this season.
That brings up a further issue. When players are suspended for a season, that year typically does not count against their contract and rolls into the next season. If that happened with Payton, he would be under contract for another season. So far, the NFL has not made a determination on whether that applies to coaches or not.
"Our office has made no determination on Sean Payton's contract status with the Saints for next year," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said. "All contracts between clubs and their employees must be approved by the commissioner, and we do not comment on specific terms of individual contracts. Any comment regarding the matter should come from Coach Payton and the Saints."
If Payton is indeed a free agent next year, the Super Bowl winning coach will undoubtedly have a lot of options.
First and foremost, the most likely scenario is that he simply does a new deal with the Saints and stays in New Orleans as he originally intended to do. He is close with owner Tom Benson and QB Drew Brees and this is a team that be built. There will undoubtedly still be good money in it for him, so it really makes a lot of sense for him to just go back.
However, you can certainly see why leaving could be an attractive option as well. The bounty scandal has upended the franchise, the team isn't very good and there very well may be more attractive jobs out there next year that offer him more power and money.
The most speculated about in the wake of the news has been the Cowboys job. Payton was previously an assistant in Dallas, owns a home there and many feel that Jerry Jones would give him a blank check to take over for the underwhelming Jason Garrett.
A similar argument could be made for him coming to Philadelphia. He was the Eagles QB coach from 1997-98 and if Andy Reid is let go at the end of this season, Payton would obviously be a guy that would interest Jeff Lurie. He'd have a pretty talented roster and likely a lot of power and money to go a long with it.
That said, if I was ranking his most likely destinations next season... The Eagles would be 3rd behind New Orleans and Dallas.