NFC South Reporter
The New Orleans Saints are back in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft.
After months of speculation about a possible return to coaching for former Saints coach Sean Payton, Tuesday brought a trade partner, the Denver Broncos, and a price, with New Orleans landing the 30th overall pick of this year’s draft and a second. round pick in 2024 in exchange for Payton and a 2024 third-round pick.
The Saints had given up their 2023 first-round pick (which will end up being the 10th overall pick) during last year’s draft, sending it to Philadelphia in a package that allowed them to take wide receiver Chris Olave with the pick No. 11. And while Olave had a promising rookie season with a team-best 1,042 receiving yards and four touchdowns, he let New Orleans go without a pick this year until their second-round pick, No. 40 of the general
By trading Payton, the Saints only lose the rights to one coach who left them a year ago, leaving after a stellar 15-year head coaching career, going 152-89 ( .631 winning percentage) and nine playoff appearances, including a Super Bowl Championship in the 2009 season. New Orleans won four consecutive NFC South titles from 2017-2020 under Payton and quarterback Drew Brees, with at least 11 wins each season.
Payton, who spent last season as an NFL analyst with FOX Sports, had been the most coveted coach this recruiting cycle, interviewing with the Cardinals, Texans, Broncos and Panthers. The Panthers introduced Frank Reich as their new coach on Tuesday, and the Texans are hiring former Houston linebacker and 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans for their opening, leaving only the Colts and Cardinals as remaining vacancies.
The team acquired by the Saints has changed hands three times. He originally belonged to the 49ers, who sent him to Miami with two other first-rounders to move up and draft Trey Lance in 2021; Miami then traded the pick to Denver at the trade deadline as part of a package to acquire running back Bradley Chubb. The Broncos used the pick as their main asset in the Payton trade.
The Saints enter the offseason about $57 million over the salary cap, which will require restructuring and cuts just to get under the cap before the March 15 deadline. Adding a first-round pick allows New Orleans to replace a starter lost as a result of these moves, and at minimal cost: the 30th pick in last year’s draft, Chiefs defensive end George Karlaftis, signed a four-year contract worth just under $12. millions
And while the draft’s perceived top tier of quarterbacks — Ohio State’s CJ Stroud, Alabama’s Bryce Young, Kentucky’s Will Levis and Florida’s Anthony Richardson — will likely be gone when the Saints are on the clock, they could pair the 30th pick with This year’s second rounder (or the 2024 second rounder acquired from Denver) will move higher in the first round, should one of them fall below projected.
With many of the NFL’s coaches and scouts gathered in Mobile for the Senior Bowl, the Saints still have some recruiting to do. They lost defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen last week as the Falcons hired him as their new defensive coordinator. The team also fired tight ends coach and run game coordinator Dan Roushar after the season. Head coach Dennis Allen will return for 2023 after going 7-10 in his first season in charge.
Greg Auman is the NFC South reporter for FOX Sports, covering the Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers and Saints. He is in his 10th season covering the Bucs and the NFL full-time, having spent time at the Tampa Bay Times and The Athletic. You can follow him on Twitter at @gregauman.
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