In nullifying Sean Payton's contract, Roger Goodell may have actually been rewarding Payton while simultaneously punishing the New Orleans Saints in a big way. There's been a lot of talk about Payton moving to the Cowboys at the conclusion of his suspension, and while I'm not sure he'll leave New Orleans, the whole situation does give him a great deal of leverage in negotiating a new deal.
If the season continues in its current course, the Dallas Cowboys, among others, will be looking for a new head coach. Jason Garrett needs a remarkable turnaround in the second half of 2012 to save his job, and I don't think he has a team talented enough to pull it off, especially in a tough division such as the NFC East.
The Cowboys have always been willing to pay big money for big names under Jerry Jones, and that simple truth will drive the price tag for Sean Payton's services sky high.
As it stands, some of the top coaches in American sports currently make about $7 million per year. That number continues to rise, and with Sean Payton's star power, Jerry Jones would likely be willing to top Bill Belichick's top mark of $7.5 million by a considerable margin. In short, Payton may be breaking the $10 million mark. It sounds like a ton of money, but it's not out of the question.
There are a few questions that do remain to be answered. The first and foremost question is, will Sean Payton look elsewhere to gain leverage in any negotiations? The other pressing matter is, would Payton seriously consider leaving New Orleans for a bigger paycheck? The answer, in my opinion, to both questions is yes.
Sean Payton has done more for the Saints' franchise than any other man in the team's history. It would be crazy for him to not push for a big paycheck. It's still not set in stone that Jerry Jones will show interest in Payton, but it seems likely that he'd take a long, hard look at Payton if Jason Garrett is dismissed. The Saints and the City of New Orleans love Sean Payton, but I'm not sure that Tom Benson would be willing to match an astronomical offer from the Cowboys. If that holds true, Payton may have to make a move to Dallas for a huge check.
There's no question in my mind that Roger Goodell did Sean Payton a huge favor by nullifying Payton's contract with the Saints. The move freed him up to look for outside employment, a more importantly leverage. He'll enter the offseason as the biggest free agent in football, players included, and if he plays his cards right, the entire situation should result in a big pay raise for one of the sharpest coaches in the league.