While a mutual interest appears to be there between the Broncos and Payton, ironing out a deal will not be simple. Payton’s copacetic attitude on what it will take to acquire his rights from the Saints could be deceiving, as it might be more expensive than even he thinks.
If Payton is right, surrendering a mid-to-late first-round pick, and say, a third-rounder, might be a price Broncos CEO Greg Penner would be willing to pay. However, the ante seems to have been significantly raised to not one but two first-round picks, according to the most recent reports.
Ever since Michigan's Jim Harbaugh announced he would be staying in the college ranks, the price for Payton unsurprisingly appears to have risen. Even Payton's purported salary demands are inflating, according to NOLA.com's Jeff Duncan, ballooning from the original ballpark figure of $20 million per season (which would be a record deal for an NFL head coach) to perhaps approaching the $25 million mark.
Saints GM Mickey Loomis might have enjoyed a fruitful working relationship with Payton previously, but he's out to protect his own team's interests. As the market has grown for Payton around the league, so has it quickly dawned on Loomis that he's now got an increasing amount of leverage.
For the Saints to properly cash in fully on their former head coach — Loomis is likely prepared to play some hardball. That could see the terms of any prior 'gentlemen's agreement' that existed between New Orleans and Payton altering dramatically.
The Broncos, led by Penner, are entering into an entirely new phase of their negotiations. No doubt, giving up two first-rounders will give the Broncos considerable organizational pause because they're already on the hook for the king's ransom relinquished to Seattle to acquire Russell Wilson last offseason.
In the final analysis, when it comes to Payton's purported salary demands, it's not the same type of deal-breaker for the Walmart-bankrolled Broncos as it would be for, say, the Los Angeles Chargers. Like all big negotiations, Penner will be trying to maneuver forward methodically, with the hope that he can finalize a deal with both Payton and Loomis. Any potential blockbuster deal could hinge on how prepared the Broncos are to mortgage future draft capital or even throw in players.
Either way, just how desperate the Broncos are to secure Payton's services will have a major effect on the team's roster-building future. Coughing up a pair of first-rounders is certainly not where the Broncos want to be in an ideal world, but then again, what price shouldn't the Walton/Penner group be willing to pay if it meant solving the head-coaching carousel that has plagued this team since Super Bowl 50 and paving the way back to competitive relevancy?
Time will tell.
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