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Voiding of Payton contract is fishy situation

Updated at 7 a.m., Nov. 11

NEW ORLEANS -- So let me make sure I understand this correctly ...

-- In September 2011, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton and club owner Tom Benson reportedly reached agreement on a multi-year contract extension through the 2015 season.

-- In March, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Payton for the entire 2012 season through Super Bowl XLVII for his role in the alleged bounty scandal.

-- Now, reports have surfaced at mid-season that Goodell voided the contract extension within the past year because of a curious/suspicious clause that would have allowed Payton to walk away if Saints general manager Mickey Loomis was suspended, fired or otherwise left the organization.

Wait there's more.

-- Though Payton's season-long suspension remains in place, the league is expected to allow him and his representative, Donald Yee, to negotiate a new extension with Benson and Loomis, whose eight-game suspension for his alleged role in the bounty scandal ended after Monday night's 28-13 victory against the Philadelphia Eagles at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

-- Payton told Jay Glazer of Fox Sports that he remains loyal to Benson, the organization and Who Dat Nation and "plans'' to return as the team's coach once a new deal can be reached and his suspension ends. Loomis informed Mike Triplett of NOLA.com that "these contract issues will get resolved'' and "I absolutely expect Sean to be our coach next year and going forward.''

-- In a matter of hours after the initial report by ESPN's Adam Schefter that the league never approved the contract extension, Payton's name was linked to potential job openings with the Cowboys, Eagles and Browns, among others, all teams whose coaches could be in danger of losing their jobs at season's end, if not sooner.

But wait, there's even more.

-- Cowboys owner/GM Jerry Jones and his son, Stephen, both have tried to distant themselves from the Payton situation and solidly stand behind their 3-5 head coach, Jason Garrett. They may feel differently after another missed postseason.

-- Now a report on CBSsports.com cites anonymous sources who tell columnist Mike Freeman that Benson intends to make Payton the highest paid coach in all of football, even more than the annual $7.5 million Bill Belichick is earning with the New England Patriots.

If I'm Tom Benson, I wouldn't pay Payton one cent more than was agreed upon back in September 2011, which, according to my sources, approached Belichick type money. Obviously, Payton felt comfortable with the compensation offered him, and last time I looked all he has done is given the franchise a perpetual PR black eye. That said, under no circumstances would I get into a bidding war with another franchise for Payton's services.

My question is where has this story been all these months? And why has it surfaced now, more than a year after Payton and Benson supposedly had an agreement? I'd love to know the source of this leak. And, if the league office indeed voided the extension well before the bounty scandal (b.s.) hit the fan in March, why couldn't Payton and Benson have come to a mutual understanding with regards to the Loomis clause?

I wonder, too, if Loomis has a similar escape clause in his contract. Can he also walk away if Payton is suspended, fired or otherwise leaves the organization?

Don't misunderstand my intentions here. I sincerely hope Payton remains with the Saints. He is an outstanding coach and a brilliant offensive stategist. The Saints organization and its fan base are/were lucky to have him.

But my curiosity is piqued. When I close my eyes, I hear that Benson wants Payton to be the coach of the Saints and Payton says he wants to be the coach of the Saints.

But when I open my eyes, I don't see it. My instincts tell me Payton wants to be in New Orleans ... as long as Loomis is there acting as a buffer between the football operations and ownership.

To borrow a line from Hamlet, "something is rotten in the state of Denmark.''

Or, in the words of game-show host Howie Mandel, "Deal or No Deal?''


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