Sean Payton, Saints reach five-year contract extension

  • By Dan Hanzus
  • Updated: Dec. 28, 2012 at 10:00 p.m.

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.

Some details still need to finalized, and the contract also needs league approval, a source familiar with the agreement told'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.

"He's always been our head coach," Benson, who talked with Payton once per week during the suspension, told The Times-Picayune. "I never had any doubt about that."

Saints quarterback Drew Brees echoed Benson's comments, writing in a text message to Mike Triplett of The Times-Picayune: "Very happy that it is offical. Never had any doubts though."

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.