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Is Sean Payton Using the Arizona Cardinals as Leverage?

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The Arizona Cardinals have quite the coaching search for owner Michael Bidwill and general manager Monti Ossenfort to sort through. 

Thus far, eight names have bubbled as potential replacements for Kliff Kingsbury after four season at the helm in the desert. Bidwill said he wanted to cast the net out far and wide in their search, and thus far they’ve done just that. 

Yet there’s one name that keeps hovering around the organization: Sean Payton. 

The Cardinals initial interest in Payton, as he was one of the first names the organization requested to speak with before silence fell over the situation. 

Pay that to the massive draft capital the New Orleans Saints are asking in exchange to the rights to his contract or the $20+ million annually Payton will command for salary, and the price tag may be just a bit much for Bidwill to swallow on top of paying out Kingsbury the remainder of his contract. 

Thus far, only one of the eight names they’ve either interviewed or requested has been brought in for a second interview: Dan Quinn. 

Things fell quiet until recently when the Cardinals reportedly agreed to meet with Payton this upcoming Thursday. Payton – who already interviewed with the Denver Broncos once – postponed a second interview with Denver to speak with Arizona. 

The rumor mill is churning at rampant pace once again, but we’re still fairly early in the process for the Cardinals. They waited until the end of the regular season to fire Kingsbury and also were committed to filling their vacant spot at general manager prior to finding their fourth head coach in ten seasons. 

The Cardinals didn’t appear to be major players for Payton early in the process, so the sudden shift in movement seems… interesting. 

At least according to Broncos insider Ben Allbright, who thinks Payton doesn’t have much of a market and may very well go back to Fox for another year. 

Saints insider Jeff Duncan believes the same.

The Cardinals certainly wouldn’t waste their time with an interview if there wasn’t interest to bring him in, but how would Payton benefit from meeting with Arizona?

The Cardinals are a fairly desirable destination for a coach: A great place to live, a franchise QB in Kyler Murray, a smidge of cap space and the No. 3 overall pick in this year’s draft at their disposal. 

Payton meeting with the Cardinals shouldn’t be a surprise, but rather the timing with both Arizona/Denver in their respective timelines seems… off.

From the outside, it certainly seems like some sort of hardball is being played here. The mutual interest between Denver/Payton shouldn’t be mistaken, but let’s not forget that either two of the Los Angeles teams potentially opening was reportedly Payton’s dream destination. There were some schools of thought that suggested it was LA or bust this offseason. 

Payton feels no pressure to take a job this offseason.

Information changes rapidly, especially this time of year. Yet if we’re trying to decide what’s smoke and what isn’t at this point in time, it sure seems as if the Cardinals are being used for leverage. 

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Source : Sports Illustrated

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