Panthers, Cowboys to get into bidding war for former Saints HC Sean Payton?

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On Thursday, Front Office Sports senior writer Michael McCarthy reported that the Carolina Panthers were “eyeing” former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton. Then, not only would he double-down on his work the next day, but McCarthy also added an interesting twist.

While joining Friday’s edition of Game On with John and Richmond on iHeart Radio, McCarthy affirmed his reporting—even despite current Panthers head coach Matt Rhule claiming to have heard otherwise just hours earlier. He’d proceed to expand on Payton’s potential availability beyond 2023, even suggesting the Dallas Cowboys would be throwing their hats into the inevitable race.

“To me, he’s about the best available coach there is out there,” he told host John Ellis. “So I don’t think just the Panthers—I think there’s a lot of teams that are going to go after him when he comes back to the league, including the Cowboys.”

Payton, of course, spent three years in Dallas right before being hired to lead the Saints in 2006. From 2003 to 2005, fresh off a three-year stint as the New York Giants offensive coordinator, the future Super Bowl winner served as the Cowboys’ assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach.

Ellis then asked McCarthy if he could foresee a high-stakes bidding war between Carolina and Dallas for Payton’s services. And, well, owner David Tepper might really have to tap into that $16.7 billion net worth if he ultimately wants to sway Payton away from Jerry Jones and the lure of “America’s Team.”

“I not only see it, I predict that’s how it’s gonna go,” McCarthy said. “I think Payton’s gonna take a year off, do television—he’s a young man, only 58 years old. It’s amazing the résumé you threw out there, that he’s done all that. He’s still under 60. And then I think there’s gonna be a bidding war and I think the Saints are gonna charge the sun and the moon if somebody wants to trade for him. And I think they’re gonna get it.”

That’d be one heck of a get, perhaps multiple top-end draft picks, on top of what the next team could be paying Payton to woo him back in. So, is that a price the Panthers—in addition to paying out the remainder of Rhule’s beefy contract—would be willing to cough up, especially to a division rival?