As first reported by FOX Sports' Jay Glazer, the New Orleans Saints and head coach Sean Payton have agreed in principle to a new multi-year contract extension. Payton, of course, was suspended for the entire 2012 season for his role in the Saints' alleged bounty scandal.
Glazer reported on the NFL Network that the contract will extend Payton's time in New Orleans for five more years.
"Very happy it is official," Saints quarterback Drew Brees said in an email to the Associated Press. "Never had any doubts."
Payton is expected to return to the team immediately after Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3, unless he is allowed to return earlier. This year's Super Bowl will take place in New Orleans, and given the negative response NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell should expect to receive during Super Bowl week, Payton may get back to work with some sort of public ceremony.
Though the players originally suspended by Goodell were released of those suspensions by former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Payton, former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, and defensive assistant Joe Vitt served the suspensions they were given. Williams is suspended from the NFL indefinitely, and Vitt -- now the team's interim head coach -- was given a six-game suspension.
Payton's current contract with the Saints was set to expire at the end of the 2012 NFL season. He was given a contract extension in September, 2011 that would have had him as the team's main man through the 2015 campaign.
However, a clause in the contract that would have voided it if Saints general manager Mickey Loomis was fired, suspended, or left the organization under any circumstances was deemed to be unsatisfactory by the league, because it would have set a complicated precedent. When Payton talked with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell about the status of that extension in March, he was told that the extension was not valid.
The Saints were given permission by the NFL to re-negotiate with Payton in November -- before then, Payton was not allowed to have any contact with league personnel through his suspension.
Hired before the 2006 season, Payton has a 62-34 regular-season record with the Saints, and 5-3 in the postseason. He led the team to a Super Bowl championship at the end of the 2009 NFL season.
The 7-8 Saints will close out their season against the Carolina Panthers this Sunday at home. They're trying to avoid two records they'd rather not have -- the franchise's first losing season since 2007, and the NFL record for total yardage allowed. The 1981 Baltimore Colts held the mark with 6,793 yards allowed, and the Saints are 281 short with 6,512. The Panthers are averaging 349.4 yards per game.
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