Mickey Loomis

Deadline Notes: Dolphins, Saints, Rams

The Dolphins are one of the most explosive teams in the NFL and sit tied atop the AFC with a 6-2 record. While Miami has clearly established themselves as a contender, the team remained quiet through the deadline. In fact, head coach Mike McDaniel told reporters that the Dolphins really didn’t have any trades in the works leading up to the deadline.

This is mostly because of the team’s IR situation, and the Dolphins will soon see a number of talented players return from injury. As McDaniel explained to reporters, those additions should give the Dolphins the boost that they would have been seeking via trade.

“Yeah, we actually have several of the best trades that exist in the works. Ok? You’re talking about getting players with no compensation, or no assets given, from injury. So, I mean, we’re in a great spot,” McDaniels said (via Adam H. Beasley of ProFootballNetwork.com).

“I think [GM] Chris [Grier] is always, and will always enter into, you know, whatever conversations that are sought out to him and, you know, that’s that’s a part of his job. He doesn’t labor my mind with, ‘Hey, you know, like NFL gossip, like, hey, I talked to this guy and this guy,’ you know, he, he, he brings it to my attention when we need to discuss it when it, when it’s to a serious platform.

“And he didn’t discuss anything. And that speaks to where we’re at with our football team. We’ve been playing some good football, and then we have some players that are very good players that are returning.”

Safety Jevon Holland (concussion), cornerback Xavien Howard (groin), and center Connor Williams (groin) are among the injured players who could return to the field as soon as this week.

More notes following the trade deadline:

  • Following a quiet deadline day, Saints GM Mickey Loomis admitted that he discussed acquiring players for draft assets but never actively shopped any of the players on his roster. “We talked to a couple of teams about a couple of things, more in the acquisition area as opposed to trading somebody,”  Loomis said (h/t John Hendrix). “We didn’t really talk about trading anyone from our team. We did talk to a couple teams about an acquisition, but I wouldn’t say it ever got really serious.” The Saints currently sit with a 4-4 record and are tied with the Falcons atop the NFC South.
  • The Rams have a 3-5 record and are facing some uncertainty at QB, leading some pundits to wonder if they’d be sellers at the deadline. While the team received calls on some veterans, the Rams never shopped any of their star players. According to Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic, the Rams didn’t consider moving Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, or Aaron Donald despite the front office potentially having eyes on the 2024 campaign.
  • Similarly, the Cowboys didn’t initiate any trade talks with teams, per ESPN’s Dan Graziano. The reporter notes that the front office did receive some calls on their defensive depth, but the Cowboys were content sticking with their current squad.
  • Some details on trades that were actually made: the conditional seventh-round pick that the Cardinals sent to the Vikings alongside QB Joshua Dobbs was a selection that originated with the Falcons, per Howard Balzer. Meanwhile, ESPN’s Brady Henderson notes that the Giants are paying most of the remaining $10MM on Leonard Williams‘ contract, with the Seahawks owing their new player only $647K.

Saints’ Michael Thomas Expected To Be Healthy By Training Camp

Michael Thomas is assured to be in New Orleans for at least one more season, but he has work to do to return to full health in time for the 2023 season. Training camp has been named as the target for the oft-injured wideout to reach that point.

During an appearance on the Rich Eisen Show, head coach Dennis Allen confirmed that Thomas will not be a full participant in the Saints’ offseason program (video link). He reiterated, however, the team’s confidence in the 30-year-old’s ability to return to his All-Pro form upon return.

“Right now, he’s still going through some of the rehab process,” Allen said. “He had some hardware removed out of that foot that he had surgery on this past season. He’s doing really well… Our anticipation is that he’ll be limited throughout this offseason. But our anticipation is that when we get to training camp, he’ll be good to go.”

Thomas was limited to three games in 2022 due to the toe injury which, as Allen noted, required surgery. The two-time All-Pro last put together a healthy season in 2019, a year in which he broke the record for receptions in a season (149) and led the league in yards (1,725). New Orleans has remained optimistic in his ability to remain highly productive when healthy, but his future appeared to be headed elsewhere after a January restructure of his contract.

However, the sides agreed to a new one-year deal with a maximum value of $15MM in March. That will give Thomas another opportunity to rebuild his value on an offense now led by quarterback Derek Carr and first-round wideout Chris Olave, who had a successful rookie campaign in 2022. Questions will naturally be raised regarding Thomas’ ability to remain healthy this season, and, if so, to once again be one of the most impactful receivers in the game.

On that point, general manager Mickey Loomis echoed Allen’s confidence that Thomas can post triple-digit catches for what would be a fourth time (Twitter link via ESPN’s Katherine Terrell). He also confirmed that the latter remains on schedule with his recovery, something which will be a key storyline to follow leading up to the season.

Saints “Ready” To Sign Derek Carr

Derek Carr has made it clear that he intends for his free agent process to be a lengthy one. For at least one of the teams he has met with, though, a quick ending would be preferred.

During an appearance on the Official Jets Podcast, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler noted that the Saints are “ready” to sign Carr. He added that they “want to get something done” with Carr, illustrating how well the two meetings which have taken place between the parties have gone. New Orleans has long been connected to the 31-year-old, who is the top quarterback on the market at this time.

When a trade was thought to be a possibility, the Saints were reportedly in agreement with the Raiders on compensation after Carr’s first visit to New Orleans. The four-time Pro Bowler forced Vegas to release him, though, not as a sign of disinterest in the Saints but rather a means of allowing himself to hit the open market and leverage the best possible contract for the next chapter of his career. That move opened up the number of suitors interested in at least a short-term QB upgrade.

New Orleans faced a difficult cap situation last offseason, but general manager Mickey Loomis carved out enough space to make the team a serious contender for Deshaun Watson. After the latter was ultimately traded to the Browns, though, the Saints elected to use a pairing of Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton under center in 2023. Their collective performance left plenty to be desired, and it would come as no surprise if Carr or a similar veteran were brought in to solidify the position.

New Orleans has begun this year’s cap gymnastics, but they still have a long way to go. The Saints are currently more than $30MM over the cap, and not much is certain for them under center. Dalton is a pending free agent, and one year remains on Winston’s contract. Releasing the former first overall pick would yield $4.4MM in savings, a relatively modest amount but one which would nevertheless move the team closer to being able to afford the $35MM AAV Carr is believed to be seeking.

The Saints and Jets met with Carr not only last month, but during this week’s combine as well. Loomis and head coach Dennis Allen spoke positively about their sit-down, and their support of the potential of a deal taking shape. The Panthers, another team which could be a significant player in this year’s quarterback market, is also set to meet with Carr, though. Not surprisingly, Fowler adds that the former second-rounder is likely to remain patient in the name of setting up a bidding war for his services, especially if Aaron Rodgers and/or Lamar Jackson don’t end up becoming available.

Rodgers has routinely been connected to the Jets this offseason, and mutual interest exists between the AFC East outfit and Carr. They figure to face stiff competition from New Orleans in the Carr sweepstakes, though, as the QB landscape slowly starts to take shape.

Sean Payton Addresses Decision To Accept Broncos’ Offer

Four teams pursued Sean Payton this year, and the former Super Bowl-winning HC would have been a coveted option next year. Rather than stay at FOX and wait out potential openings of jobs he was previously connected to, Payton decided to become the Broncos’ next head coach.

Addressing the decision to relocate to Denver — in a transaction that probably doubles as the highest-profile coaching hire in Broncos history — Payton broached a few topics. Among them, the team’s new owners.

I tried to put ownership at the top from the beginning, and I was impressed with how much they want to be successful,” Payton said, during an interview with NOLA.com’s Jeff Duncan, of the Broncos’ Walton-Penner ownership group. “We had great support in New Orleans. I can’t recall Mr. or Mrs. B [Tom and Gayle Benson] ever saying no to something. … This was the opportunity I was looking for.”

Payton, 59, also interviewed with the Cardinals, Panthers and Texans. He made the Broncos his first meeting, and Duncan adds the former Saints coach spoke with Rob and Carrie Walton Penner via Zoom this past weekend. Rob Walton was not part of the Broncos’ contingent to initially meet with Payton in Los Angeles more than two weeks ago. Denver’s ownership did not announce interviews this year and made a surprise trip to Ann Arbor to meet with Jim Harbaugh, who had previously announced he was staying at Michigan. The winding HC search still led back to Payton, who was believed to be the franchise’s top choice throughout.

Waiting out the prospect of the Cowboys or Chargers’ jobs becoming available next year would have included opportunities to coach Dak Prescott or Justin Herbert. Not long ago, Russell Wilson would have resided as an asset for coaching candidates. Thanks to a stunningly woeful season that came shortly after the Broncos’ new ownership group authorized a five-year, $245MM extension, Wilson can be viewed as a liability. Reports had indicated Payton was onboard with coaching the former Seahawks great, however, and his Tuesday decision will greenlight this pairing as one of the more interesting in recent memory.

Russell is a hard worker and has played at a high level and won a lot of games in this league,” Payton said. “The pressure is on us to put a good run game together and reduce the degree of difficulty on his position. I’m excited about him.”

Wilson, 34, reached out to Payton about coming to Denver and will have one of this era’s top play-callers overseeing his bounce-back opportunity. The Saints were on Wilson’s initial 2021 trade-destination list; he added the Broncos later that year. The Broncos traded an eight-asset package for Wilson, including two first-round picks and two seconds, to land the nine-time Pro Bowler in March 2022. The early returns were alarming, but Wilson going from an overmatched Nathaniel Hackett to Payton should represent a strong spot to re-emerge as an upper-echelon starter. If Wilson cannot resemble his Seattle form this season, the Broncos will need to look at other options. Of course, Wilson’s contract will make such a move more difficult — even by 2024.

The Wilson situation heightens the importance of the Broncos’ Payton hire. Payton unleashed Drew Brees in New Orleans. The former Charger morphed from a player the team obtained Philip Rivers to replace into one that totaled a record-shattering five 5,000-yard passing seasons. Payton guided the Saints to seven NFC South titles and nine playoff wins. The team ranked in the top 10 offensively 11 times during Payton’s 15 years on the sideline; it also did so during Payton’s 2012 Bountygate ban. After the Broncos gave Wilson considerable autonomy to co-design an offense last year, Payton should be expected to hold the reins tightly.

Mickey Loomis and Broncos GM George Paton spent the past three days hammering out a compensation package for Payton, Duncan adds. Payton has been rumored to wanting to bring some personnel people with him to Denver, which could certainly cause a conflict with the Paton-led front office. The high-profile coach should have the opportunity to structure things as he sees fit, given his pedigree and the leverage he possessed. For now, however, Paton remains in place.

Both Payton and Paton — that will make for some confusing conversations as long as this partnership lasts — will report to Broncos CEO Greg Penner. That marks a change from 2021 and ’22, but the Walton-Penner group only arrived in Denver late last summer. Payton and Paton also spoke privately often ahead of this hire, Albert Breer of SI.com tweets.

George and Mickey were great,” Payton said. “It took a minute, but they worked through it hard and got a deal done. … It works out great in Denver because we’re in the AFC.”

The Saints were believed to have asked for two first-round picks from teams for Payton, and while the price undoubtedly would have been higher had the Panthers made the hire, the Broncos collected a 2024 third-rounder in the deal. Still, Denver will go into this draft without first- or second-round picks and will not have a 2024 second-rounder. That will make matters difficult for the Payton-Paton tandem, but this will be the power structure in place in charge of helping the Broncos crawl out of their biggest slump in 50 years.

Saints Seeking Two First-Round Picks For Sean Payton?

In the aftermath of the “Tuck Rule” game 21 years ago, the Buccaneers sent the Raiders a monster haul for Jon Gruden. Oakland collected two first-round picks, two second-rounders and $8MM in cash from Tampa Bay. Although the Bucs went on to win Super Bowl XXXVII a year later, their draft capital took a major hit when they replaced Tony Dungy with Gruden.

This trade has become relevant again, with Sean Payton on the market and Saints GM Mickey Loomis discussing his trade price with teams. While Payton said Loomis would likely ask for a mid- to late-first-round pick for his rights this year, NOLA.com’s Jeff Duncan points to the Raiders-Bucs trade. Loomis has told teams he wants a Gruden-esque package for Payton’s rights, with Duncan noting two first-round picks will be the starting point.

Should a team offer two first-rounders in future drafts, Duncan adds the Saints will want “higher mid-round picks” in the 2023 draft as part of the package as well. If the ante will be upped to this point, the HC-needy teams keen on hiring Payton will have more to consider. Though, the Broncos and Saints were reported to have agreed on compensation that includes a first-rounder and change already.

From the Saints’ perspective, such a haul would make sense. Four of the five HC-seeking teams have been connected to Payton, and he will have interviewed with three of them — the Texans, Broncos and Panthers — by week’s end. Payton is also expected to command a top-market coaching salary, as he has obvious leverage via the expanding market for his services and the option of staying at FOX for another year. Payton is seeking a four-year deal worth $20-$25MM per year, per Duncan. Judging by reports of the Broncos being set for an “ultra-aggressive” HC push and Panthers owner David Tepper being willing to give Payton “just about anything he wants,” the salary component here will be the lesser issue for teams.

The Broncos having just traded two first-round picks and two seconds for Russell Wilson certainly complicates their interest in meeting this asking price, though they did acquire a 2023 first-rounder in the Bradley Chubb trade. The Texans would be in better position to meet it, considering the Deshaun Watson swap armed them with three first-rounders. Houston holds two first-round picks and two seconds in the upcoming draft, but sending much of the Watson haul for a coach also would complicate the rebuilding team’s ability to stock its roster.

Payton said recently the Saints’ compensation would change “considerably” if this process is tabled to 2024, when just one season would remain on his contract. Loomis, however, has told Saints staffers he is comfortable waiting a year to trade Payton’s rights, according to Duncan. Teams in the Payton sweepstakes could attempt to test Loomis’ desire here, considering the Saints sent their 2023 first-rounder to the Eagles just before last year’s draft. But the Texans, Panthers and Broncos have fallen on hard times recently. The Saints’ potential push for a huge haul would attempt to capitalize on that while giving themselves a package that would help their now-Dennis Allenled operation, which did not start especially well in 2022.

It’s complicated because I have such great respect for him,” Loomis said of Payton last week. “He’s a close friend of mine. He’s a great coach. I want the best for him. I do. We do, collectively as an organization. But I also recognize that … his contract is a valuable asset to our club, and it’s our duty to maximize that.”

The Gruden ask is on the high end of the spectrum in terms of modern swaps for coaches. Bill Parcells cost the Jets first-, second-, third- and fourth-round picks in 1997; the Patriots received a package headlined by first- and fourth-rounders for Bill Belichick in 2000. Mike Holmgren cost the Seahawks a second-rounder in 1999; Herm Edwards cost the Chiefs a fourth in 2006.

Payton, 59, is believed to be 50-50 on coaching in 2023, potentially waiting out other jobs that might be available next year. That was believed to be Payton’s plan before this round of interviews started, but Duncan adds the Texans and Broncos meetings are believed to have gone well. The 16-year Saints HC was particularly impressed with Denver’s ownership group, though he is also intrigued by Houston’s draft capital and cap space. The Texans’ projected $40MM is projected to be among the top five entering the offseason.

Payton’s comfort level with the Broncos’ new ownership has been reported on multiple occasions, and the Rob Walton-fronted contingent would be able to pay top dollar in terms of salary. But the Broncos’ ability to build a team around Wilson would be greatly impacted by a two-first-rounder package. Dan Quinn has been mentioned as leading Denver’s non-Payton contingent; the Cowboys DC interviews with the Broncos on Friday.

Broncos, Texans Remain In Play For Sean Payton; Panthers Preparing Big Offer?

Sean Payton has gone through with two of his scheduled interviews, meeting with the Texans on Monday and the Broncos on Tuesday. As of Wednesday afternoon, both teams remain in play for the costly coaching candidate.

The Broncos may still be in the lead, though Payton has not committed to returning to coaching this year. Denver remains in “very strong position” to be able to lure Payton away from his FOX sabbatical, Mark Maske of the Washington Post tweets. We heard previously Payton was willing to work with Russell Wilson, the QB’s shockingly mediocre season aside, and Dan Graziano of ESPN.com notes the money the Broncos will be willing to pay will be a factor in these sweepstakes.

Rob Walton‘s ownership group will be able to comfortably out-offer other teams, should the Broncos view Payton as a bank-breaking HC candidate. The team did just see its 1-B candidate, Jim Harbaugh, decide to stay at Michigan. That could increase a Broncos offer. However, the Panthers look to be willing to pay up in terms of money and power. David Tepper is prepared to give Payton “just about anything he wants,” Maske adds (on Twitter). The prospect of Payton wanting to join the Panthers, who would need to give the Saints valuable draft compensation for his rights, remains uncertain.

Payton is expected to meet with Tepper and Co. this week, he said during an interview with Fox Sports’ Colin Cowherd (video link). That meeting is expected to take place in New York. Tepper chasing a prime commodity is not exactly new. He shelled out a seven-year contract for Matt Rhule in 2020 — a deal the Panthers were able to escape after three years, thanks to Rhule’s Nebraska accord — and pursued Deshaun Watson for two years. Thus far, however, the NFL’s second-wealthiest owner has struck out. It will be interesting to see how the Panthers’ NFC South proximity affects a deal, should Payton be interested. Intra-divisional coach trades — both involving the Patriots and Jets — occurred in 1996 and 2000, deals that sent Bill Parcells‘ rights to the Jets and Bill Belichick‘s to the Pats.

In terms of trade compensation, Payton expects the Saints to ask for a mid- to late-first-round pick and reminded Cowherd the Broncos do, in fact, hold a first-round pick (the 49ers’ choice via the Bradley Chubb trade) despite sending their own to the Seahawks for Wilson. Payton and Saints GM Mickey Loomis have discussed the situation, per NOLA.com’s Jeff Duncan, who expects a 2023 first-rounder or a future first to anchor this trade package. Payton adds a future No. 1 choice could potentially complete a deal.

Payton said recently ownership and the front office are the most important factors here, and the 16-year New Orleans HC is believed to be intrigued by Denver’s new owners. As far as how personnel power would go with Payton and George Paton, it would be difficult to envision the Broncos’ current GM — who was hired before this ownership group arrived — fielding final-say power over a coach with Payton’s pedigree. Payton, who did confirm teams’ quarterback situations will factor into his decision, has also been rumored to want to bring personnel staffers with him to his next coaching destination.

While the Texans are well behind the Broncos in terms of achievements and have not won more than four games in a season since 2019, they do again have — thanks to the Watson trade — four picks in the first two rounds. This includes the No. 2 overall selection this year. Payton confirmed the Texans are in the running, citing some familiarity with the Cal McNair-fronted ownership group — through years of Saints joint practices with the Texans — along with the team’s draft capital and potentially favorable division. As far as the Cardinals go, Duncan would be “stunned” if Payton became their next head coach (Twitter link). The Saints have granted permission for the Cards to interview Payton, though no confirmed meeting time has surfaced.

Sean Payton-Saints Reunion On Table; Broncos, Panthers Not In Play?

With a third coach firing going down this week, Sean Payton smoke keeps emerging. The Super Bowl-winning coach has given a few interviews indicating a desire to coach again, and it could happen as soon as 2023.

Payton will be coveted by every team with a coaching vacancy, but an unexpected reunion is generating buzz. The Saints potentially bringing back Payton is “the worst-kept secret” in NFL circles, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes. Payton is indeed open to a New Orleans return, according to Jeff Duncan of NOLA.com.

The Saints were forced to conduct a coaching search weeks after other HC-seeking teams went through theirs, after Payton stepped down from his 16-year gig. They ended up promoting Dennis Allen, giving the ex-Raiders HC a second chance. Although the Saints are still in contention for the NFC South title, they are 6-9 and could hit double-digit losses for the first time since 2005 — the franchise’s final pre-Payton year. GM Mickey Loomis and owner Gayle Benson are strong supporters of Allen, per Duncan, who notes Payton’s longtime DC is well-liked throughout the organization.

It would make for a historically unusual move for the Saints and Payton to reunite after one year apart, but Loomis remains close with his former coworker. And the Saints hold Payton’s rights through 2024. It would be interesting to see if another team was willing to make a substantial trade offer for Payton, Florio adds that if Payton coaches anywhere next season, it will be back in New Orleans. A source that spoke with Duncan offers the same prediction.

Payton has already begun work on assembling a staff and has studied rosters and cap situations around the league, per Duncan, so it should not be assumed the Saints — who have featured a rather notable roster issue since Drew Brees‘ retirement — have a runaway lead here. But them being back in the mix sets the table for what would be one of the most fascinating transactions in modern coaching history.

Payton, 58, has been connected to a few teams, but avenues toward the positions that cropped up this offseason are closing. The Cowboys and Chargers are heading to the playoffs, and while neither Mike McCarthy nor Brandon Staley are locks to return, both are likely to stay on in their present roles. The Dolphins, as you may have heard, caused quite a stir by showing interest in Payton — to the point they were docked first- and third-round picks for tampering with he and Tom Brady. Although Mike McDaniel‘s team is fading, it would surprise if Stephen Ross made him a one-and-done given the progress Tua Tagovailoa has made this season.

The Broncos and Panthers are both believed to be interested in Payton, but Florio adds neither team appeals to the current FOX analyst. (The Saints trading Payton to the Panthers is a near-impossible scenario to envision as well.) Payton returning to New Orleans would seemingly wall off a quest to become the first head coach to win Super Bowls with two different teams. Several HCs — Don Shula, Dick Vermeil, Bill Parcells, Dan Reeves, Mike Holmgren, John Fox and Andy Reid — have coached two franchises to Super Bowls, but none has negotiated the hurdle of winning it with both.

Returning to New Orleans would also mean a renewed search to find a long-term Brees successor, and the recent report of Payton eyeing Vic Fangio to be his defensive coordinator upon returning further complicates Allen’s status. Allen enjoyed two tours under Payton with the Saints, being the team’s secondary coach from 2008-10 and its DC from 2015-21. Another report indicated Allen was likely safe from being a one-and-done, but Payton being back in play could certainly change that.

At the end of an unremarkable season, it appears the Saints will be a central figure in the 2023 offseason. They may have the chance to rehire the best head coach in team history or trade him for a package that could include a first-round pick.

South Notes: Saints, Darnold, Colts

Links between Patrick Mahomes and other teams have emerged in the past. The Cardinals were preparing to draft the eventual Chiefs megastar five years ago. Sean Payton also confirmed the rumored story of his old team’s plans with the then-Texas Tech prospect. During his latest FOX appearance (h/t NFL.com’s Peter Schrager), the former Saints coach said he was prepared to draft Mahomes at No. 11 in 2017. While Payton confirmed he discussed the selection with Drew Brees and informed the future Hall of Famer a Mahomes pick would not impact his starter status, the Saints also viewed Marshon Lattimore as a top-four player in the 2017 class.

Payton said in 2020 the team did not have a clear choice between Lattimore and Mahomes, though then-Kansas City GM John Dorsey made New Orleans’ decision easier with the trade-up for the quarterback. Payton said this week Mahomes was “the best quarterback I’d ever seen on college tape.” The Saints had worked out Mahomes in Lubbock that year. Hindsight would suggest the Saints needed to be ready to climb into the top 10 for such a talent, but Mahomes was not viewed as a surefire top-10 pick that year. GM Mickey Loomis also said Lattimore falling impacted the team’s decision not to trade up for Mahomes. Both Mahomes and Lattimore are now signed to long-term contracts, though the former’s prime should be expected to last longer.

Here is the latest from the NFC South:

  • The NFL’s longest-tenured general manager, excluding those with owner-GM or coach-GM roles, Loomis has seen fellow Saints cornerstones Payton and Brees depart in the past two offseasons. But the 21st-year Saints front office boss is not planning to join them in leaving anytime soon, via Jeff Duncan of NOLA.com. When the acclaimed salary cap guru does walk away, Jeff Ireland looms as a logical successor. The former Dolphins GM is well-regarded by Loomis and others in the organization, Duncan adds. Ireland, 52, was the Dolphins’ GM from 2008-13. Currently the Saints’ assistant GM, Ireland has been with the team since 2015. The Bears interviewed Ireland for their GM post this offseason, while the Lions and Panthers met with him in 2021. It will be interesting to see if Ireland sticks around to potentially succeed Loomis or land a GM gig elsewhere before the New Orleans GM exits.
  • After a strained 2021 between Michael Thomas and the Saints, first-year HC Dennis Allen made connecting with the wide receiver one of his first acts upon being promoted. Allen flew to Los Angeles to have dinner with Thomas early this offseason, Mike Triplett of ESPN.com notes. Despite Thomas’ injury-plagued 2020s and the Saints’ frustration with their top wideout regarding his 2021 surgery timetable — a process that led to the All-Pro missing a full season — the team vowed not to trade him early this offseason. Thomas, 29, has returned healthy and caught two touchdown passes in the Saints’ Week 1 comeback win over the Falcons.
  • Potentially the Colts‘ left tackle of the future, Bernhard Raimann backed up Matt Pryor in Week 1. But the Colts used the third-round rookie in a rotation with Pryor. After Raimann played 12 of the five-period game’s 90 left tackle snaps, Frank Reich said (via the Indianapolis Star’s Joel Erickson) he plans to continue rotating his backup in going forward. Left tackle represented the only position at which the Colts deployed a rotation, beginning a path to Raimann seizing this job full-time. The Colts re-signed Pryor on a one-year, $5.55MM deal this offseason, and Erickson offers the 2021 Colts swingman — who has never been a full-time left tackle — could be an option at right guard, should Raimann take over the blindside.
  • Sam Darnold is making progress toward a return. The Panthers backup has shed his walking boot, per The Athletic’s Joe Person (on Twitter). On IR due to a high ankle sprain, Darnold will miss at least the season’s first four weeks.

The NFL’s Longest-Tenured GMs

Wednesday, we took a look at how the 2022 offseason changed the HC landscape. While 10 new sideline leaders are in place for 2022, not quite as much turnover transpired on the general manager front. Five new decision-makers, however, have moved to the top of teams’ front office hierarchies over the past six months.

The Bears, Giants, Raiders and Vikings rebooted their entire operations, hiring new HC-GM combos. The Minnesota move bumped out one of the previous top-10 longest-tenured GMs, with 16-year Vikings exec Rick Spielman no longer in power in the Twin Cities. The Steelers’ shakeup took the NFL’s longest-tenured pure GM out of the mix. Kevin Colbert was with the Steelers since 2000, and although he is still expected to remain with the team in a reduced capacity, the 22-year decision-maker stepped down shortly after Ben Roethlisberger wrapped his career.

Twelve teams have now hired a new GM in the past two offseasons, though a bit more staying power exists here compared to the HC ranks. Two GMs (the Cardinals’ Steve Keim and Chargers’ Tom Telesco) have begun their 10th years at the helms of their respective front offices. They have hired three HCs apiece. The Buccaneers’ Jason Licht is closing in on a decade in power in Tampa Bay; Licht will now work with his fourth HC in Todd Bowles. Beyond that, a bit of a gap exists. But a handful of other executives have been in power for at least five seasons.

Here is how long every GM or de facto GM has been in place with his respective franchise:

  1. Jerry Jones (Dallas Cowboys): April 18, 1989[1]
  2. Mike Brown (Cincinnati Bengals): August 5, 1991[2]
  3. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000[3]
  4. Mickey Loomis (New Orleans Saints): May 14, 2002
  5. John Schneider (Seattle Seahawks): January 19, 2010; signed extension in 2021
  6. Howie Roseman (Philadelphia Eagles): January 29, 2010; signed extension in 2022
  7. Les Snead (Los Angeles Rams): February 10, 2012; signed extension in 2019
  8. Steve Keim (Arizona Cardinals): January 8, 2013; signed extension in 2022
  9. Tom Telesco (Los Angeles Chargers): January 9, 2013; signed extension in 2018
  10. Jason Licht (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): January 21, 2014; signed extension in 2021
  11. Chris Grier (Miami Dolphins): January 4, 2016[4]
  12. Jon Robinson (Tennessee Titans): January 14, 2016; signed extension in 2022
  13. John Lynch (San Francisco 49ers): January 29, 2017; signed extension in 2020
  14. Chris Ballard (Indianapolis Colts): January 30, 2017; signed extension in 2021
  15. Brandon Beane (Buffalo Bills): May 9, 2017; signed extension in 2020
  16. Brett Veach (Kansas City Chiefs): July 11, 2017; signed extension in 2020
  17. Brian Gutekunst (Green Bay Packers): January 7, 2018
  18. Eric DeCosta (Baltimore Ravens): January 7, 2019
  19. Joe Douglas (New York Jets): June 7, 2019
  20. Andrew Berry (Cleveland Browns): January 27, 2020
  21. Nick Caserio (Houston Texans): January 5, 2021
  22. George Paton (Denver Broncos): January 13, 2021
  23. Scott Fitterer (Carolina Panthers): January 14, 2021
  24. Brad Holmes (Detroit Lions): January 14, 2021
  25. Terry Fontenot (Atlanta Falcons): January 19, 2021
  26. Trent Baalke (Jacksonville Jaguars): January 21, 2021
  27. Martin Mayhew (Washington Commanders): January 22, 2021
  28. Joe Schoen (New York Giants): January 21, 2022
  29. Ryan Poles (Chicago Bears): January 25, 2022
  30. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah (Minnesota Vikings): January 26, 2022
  31. Dave Ziegler (Las Vegas Raiders): January 30, 2022
  32. Omar Khan (Pittsburgh Steelers): May 24, 2022


  1. Jones has been the Cowboys’ de facto general manager since former GM Tex Schramm resigned in April 1989.
  2. Brown has been the Bengals’ de facto GM since taking over as the team’s owner in August 1991.
  3. Belichick has been the Patriots’ de facto GM since shortly after being hired as the team’s head coach in January 2000.
  4. Although Grier was hired in 2016, he became the Dolphins’ top football exec on Dec. 31, 2018

Saints Have Stake In Payton’s Future

When Saints’ former head coach Sean Payton retired, he left the door open for a return. Although he made it clear that he has no intention of coaching during the 2022 NFL season, Payton didn’t rule out a return later on. 

“My plans are not to be coaching in 2022,” Payton said. “I still have a vision for doing things in football and, I’ll be honest with you, that might be coaching again at some point.”

Because Payton is under contract with the Saints through the 2024 NFL season, this “mini-retirement” means that whichever team wants to sign him for the 2023 season will have to negotiate with the Saints to do so. Even though Payton told radio personality Dan Patrick that he heard two teams reached out through back channels, those channels never reached Saints’ general manager Mickey Loomis, according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen. This means that whatever the level of interest those two teams had, it didn’t rise to the point where they were ready to talk compensation.

Mortensen goes on to explain that, should another team reach out to see what it would take to sign Payton, New Orleans has their compensation chart ready on hand. The chart would be based on past similar transactions setting an estimated value through precedent.

The most recent example would be when the Buccaneers pulled Bruce Arians out of his recent retirement from coaching the Cardinals three seasons ago. This is a precedent the Saints’ would stray away from as Arians lack of success in Arizona led to the Cardinals essentially nudging him into retirement. When the deal was made to send Arians to Tampa Bay, the Cardinals received a sixth-round pick and gave the Buccaneers Arians and a seventh-round pick.

Payton is currently considered in much higher demand than Arians was at the time. Mortensen laid out three past transactions that he considers a little more on par with Payton’s current value. The most pricey example was about 20-years ago when the Buccaneers gave the Raiders two first-round picks, two second-round picks, and $8MM cash in exchange for Jon Gruden, who lead his new team to a Super Bowl victory over his old team. The Gruden deal differs a bit from the Arians deal because Gruden wasn’t thinking of retiring and there was really no threat to his job. Raiders’ owner and general manager Al Davis had some questions over Gruden’s value, but there was never talk that his job was in jeopardy.

Another similar deal came back in 1997, when Bill Parcells decided he didn’t want to coach for the Patriots anymore. Parcells’ contract restricted him from coaching anywhere else, so the Jets attempted to circumvent the restriction by hiring a key Parcells’ assistant, Bill Belichick, as their head coach and hiring Parcells as an “advisor.” After the Patriots threatened legal action, the commissioner, Paul Tagliabue, helped the two sides come to an agreement wherein the Patriots would send Parcells to the Jets in exchange for a first-, second-, third-, and fourth-round pick (spread over the following three years). Even though this deal doesn’t include any “mini-retirements,” it follows the current situation a little more closely than the Gruden deal.

Belichick’s return to New England had a very similar ring to his arrival in New York. After the Jets arranged for Belichick to succeed Parcells as head coach, Belichick went to his press conference and, instead of introducing himself as the new head coach, he introduce his resignation from the franchise. The Patriots soon requested permission to interview Belichick to replace Pete Carroll, but the Jets pulled the reverse card and demanded compensation, as Belichick was still under contract. Tagliabue stepped in, once more, and the Patriots sent New York a first-round pick in exchange for the coaching rights of Belichick.

All these examples, despite their different situations, provide a basis for the Saints to use in determining what they think they are due when another team inevitably comes calling. As a Super Bowl champion and long-tenured head coach, Payton is sure to fetch quite a price for whichever team decides to hire him.