The New Orleans Saints quickly acted to eliminate what was shaping up to be a major offseason question mark.
Fox Sports insider and NFL Network contributor Jay Glazer reported Friday that the Saints and Sean Payton have agreed in principle to a five-year contract extension that will keep the coach in New Orleans.
|Saints owner Tom Benson (left) shares a laugh with coach Sean Payton (right) on Friday night at New Orleans Arena, just hours after news of a contract agreement between the sides broke. (Dave Martin/Associated Press)|
Some details still need to finalized, and the contract also needs league approval, a source familiar with the agreement told NFL.com's Albert Breer. Payton signed an extension with the Saints last year, but the NFL rejected it because of concerns over contract language.
Payton joined Saints owner Tom Benson at his courtside seats at New Orleans Arena for Friday night's Hornets-Toronto Raptors game.
"We worked a long time on it and everything worked out, and I'll leave it at that," Payton told NOLA.com after the game. "And we'll leave it at that."
"He's always been our head coach," Benson, who talked with Payton once per week during the suspension, told the website. "I never had any doubt about that."
"I am pleased that Sean Payton will be our head coach for a long time," Benson said in the release. "Now we can focus our attention on building on the winning tradition with the Saints that Sean has played such a large role in."
Payton has been away from the Saints while serving a season-long suspension for his role in the team's bounty program. Payton's contract had been set to expire after this season, and Glazer previously reported that the coach would "keep all his options open" if he couldn't reach a new agreement with the Saints.
Dallas was a hotly rumored destination for Payton, who lives in the area, but that likely was a case of leverage in negotiations more than anything else. The Cowboys are in contention for a playoff spot, and coach Jason Garrett's job reportedly is safe, according to Glazer. Payton and the Saints, who are 7-8 without their coach this season, had little reason not to do business sooner rather than later.
This is a smart move for the Saints, who acted aggressively to retain Payton, who's 62-34 as their coach and took them to their only Super Bowl championship. The Saints have work to do to return to contending status in the NFC, but keeping Payton in house is a huge step in returning this wayward franchise to pre-bounty normalcy.
Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @danhanzus.