If Sean Payton wants to be a “coaching free agent” at the end of the 2015 season, the Saints would be inclined to let him out of his contract, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (article via Conor Orr of NFL.com). Rapoport adds that New Orleans might not even have a say in the matter. Payton’s current deal includes a “change of control” clause that allows him to terminate his contract if owner Tom Benson is no longer in charge of the club. Benson, 88, is in a legal dispute with various family members regarding control of his teams (he also owns the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans).
But regardless of Benson’s status, it appears increasingly likely that the Saints and Payton are headed for a parting of the ways. The Colts and Dolphins have been frequently mentioned as a suitor for Payton’s services should he become available, and the Giants, Lions, and Titans could all be looking for head coaches as well by season’s end. All of those clubs would be willing to pay top dollar for Payton, who has a reputation as a quarterback guru.
Payton is also relatively young (51) and has a strong track record of success. If he wants to leave, he will have plenty of options. Or, if he returns to the Saints, it could be under a new, even more lucrative deal that gives him increased control over personnel decisions.
As Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com writes, even if the Saints were to allow Payton to pursue other opportunities, an interested team would need to request the Saints’ permission to speak with Payton, and before permission is granted, the two teams would need to negotiate the terms of compensation in the event the new team would hire Payton. Evan Woodberry of The Times-Picayune tweets that he would be surprised if New Orleans allowed Payton to break his contract without at least nominal compensation, adding (via Twitter) that, absent an ownership change, it would reflect poorly on the team if it allowed a well-regarded coach to leave without receiving anything in return.