Broncos Donate Massive Trade Package for Vikings Rival

Former Vikings Starter Released by Broncos
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports.

If anyone is going to salvage the for-now awful Russel Wilson trade executed by the Broncos 11 months ago, it will evidently be Sean Payton.

The Denver Broncos hired Payton on Tuesday after an extensive head coaching search. NFL Network‘s Ian Rapoport tweeted, “Unbelievable: The Broncos spent today trying to hire DeMeco Ryans AGAIN today before he recommitted to the Texans, sources say. When he agreed to terms with the Texans, they moved and finalized Sean Payton.”

Broncos Donate Massive Trade Package for Vikings Rival

And the Broncos odyssey to find Nathaniel Hackett’s replacement came at a steep price. The New Orleans Saints owned contractual rights to Payton, who temporarily retired after the 2021 season. To release Payton from his existing deal, the two franchises finagled this agreement:

Saints Receive:

2023 1st-Round Pick
2024 2nd-Round Pick

Broncos Receive:

Sean Payton
2024 3rd-Round Pick

Broncos Donate Massive
Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports.

The working theory for Denver and Payton is this — if anyone can fix Russell Wilson’s strange 2022 struggles, it has to be Payton, who worked alongside future Hall of Famer Drew Brees for 15 seasons. The Broncos roster — assuming Wilson isn’t over the hill or damaged — is pretty stacked.

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Rapoport also reported Tuesday that the Broncos wanted San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Demeco Ryans for the big job, but Ryans turned them down in favor of the Houston Texans. Then, after also trying to lure Jim Harbaugh away from the University of Michigan, Denver pivoted back to Payton, who, of course, required the massive trade haul.

Payton’s .631 all-time win percentage ranks 24th in NFL history, in the ranks with coaches like Mike Tomlin (.636), Bruce Arians (.624), and Bill Cowher (.623). He’ll have a challenge in Denver, a team that finished 5-12 in 2022.

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From 2014 to 2016, the Saints encountered three weird seasons with 7-9 records thrice consecutively, as New Orleans’ defense was terrible. But after that, Payton’s Saints rattled off four straight playoff appearances before Brees retired.

With the Payton trade, Denver has traded three 1st-round picks, three 2nd-round picks, and other commodities for the Payton-Wilson sandwich. In that vein, the swaps almost have to work. Otherwise, former Vikings executive George Paton, the Broncos current general manager, may be seeking additional employment.

The Vikings last two playoff wins occurred over the Payton-led Saints in 2017 and 2019. New Orleans defeated Minnesota in 2009 en route to its Super Bowl triumph over the Indianapolis Colts.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by