The Saints want to avoid going through the process of asking commissioner Roger Goodell to rule on whether the final year of Sean Payton’s contract is 2012 or '13 and, in effect, try to force Payton to remain their head coach.
However, it might come to that.
The Saints don’t want to lose Payton this offseason, but they certainly want an opportunity to be compensated for his services if they do reach a point of no return with him. Saints owner Tom Benson’s preference is to put an end to questions about Payton's contract status and the rumors about where Payton might be coaching next season.
However, none of our sources believe the Saints and Payton are on the verge of finalizing a new deal.
Payton knows his potential free agency is leverage over the Saints, and he is curious to see what options might be available to him on the open market in an offseason where there could be widespread turnover in the head-coaching ranks.
It’s approaching three weeks since the Saints received permission from the league to discuss terms of a new contract with Payton while he serves the remainder of his suspension, and the Saints are facing the prospect of losing the only head coach to ever lead them to a title.