ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos have agreed to a deal with the New Orleans Saints that will make Sean Payton their head coach, a person with knowledge of the accord said Tuesday.

The person, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the teams hadn’t announced the agreement, said the Broncos would send their first-round pick, No. 29 overall, in this year’s draft to the Saints along with a future second-rounder.

Payton remained under contract with New Orleans after stepping down from the Saints last season and working in broadcasting this season.

The Broncos, who went 5-12 this season and extended their playoff drought to seven years, fired rookie coach Nathaniel Hackett on Dec. 26 after he went 4-11. Interim coach Jerry Rosburg went 1-1.

Payton’s top task will be to get quarterback Russell Wilson back to his winning ways after the 11-year pro had his worst statistical season following his blockbuster trade from Seattle for four premium draft picks and three players.

The Broncos dealt their first- and second-round picks to the Seahawks for Wilson. They got back into the first round by trading pass rusher Bradley Chubb to the Miami Dolphins, who sent the Broncos a first-rounder originally owned by the San Francisco 49ers.


That selection, the 29th overall pick, now belongs to the Saints.

Payton also interviewed for the Carolina Panthers’ head coaching vacancy.

Payton led New Orleans to a Super Bowl championship in Feb. 2010 and had the Saints in the playoffs nine times in his 15 seasons with the organization. Payton and the Saints won the NFC South seven times during his time there and he owns a career postseason mark of 9-8. Outside the Super Bowl season, his Saints teams lost in the NFC championship game twice, the divisional round four times and the wild card round twice.

They won the division four consecutive years from 2017-20 before going 9-8 and missing the playoffs in his final season before resigning. That deep playoff experience is part of Payton’s allure, as is his reputation as one of the game’s brightest offensive minds.
The Saints led the NFL in scoring twice under Payton, finished in the top three seven times and cracked the top 10 in 11 of his 15 seasons in charge. They never finished lower than 11th in scoring until 2021 (19th).

Payton has also been a part of his share of controversy in New Orleans. He was suspended for the entire 2012 season for his role in the Bounty Gate scandal, when the Saints defensive coaching staff was paying players for knocking opposing players out of games. The Miami Dolphins were also fined and stripped of draft picks last year for tampering with Payton without the Saints’ consent.

TEXANS: DeMeco Ryans has been hired as coach of the Houston Texans, a person with knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press on Tuesday.


The move gives him his first head coaching job and brings him back to the place where he started his playing career. Ryans joins the Texans from the San Francisco 49ers, where he spent the past two seasons as their defensive coordinator. He replaces Lovie Smith, who was fired after just one season where the team went 3-13-1.

Ryans led a 49ers defense that led the NFL this season by allowing just 300.6 yards a game. San Francisco was particularly good against the run, ranking second in the league by holding teams to 77.7 yards. That’s a stark contrast to Houston’s run defense, which ranked last in the NFL by allowing 170.2 yards this season.

Ryans helped the 49ers to a 13-4 regular-season record and the NFC West title this season. San Francisco reached the NFC championship game before falling to Philadelphia on Sunday.

The 38-year-old Ryans was a linebacker who was a second-round pick of the Texans in 2006. He led the NFL with 126 solo tackles that season to win AP Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.

FALCONS: Atlanta Coach Arthur Smith continued to reshape his defensive staff by hiring Jerry Gray as the assistant head coach for defense on Tuesday.

Gray, 60, brings 26 years of NFL coaching experience to Atlanta, including eight as a defensive coordinator and 16 as a defensive backs coach. In those 24 years as a coordinator or defensive backs coach, his defenses have ranked in the top 10 in scoring defense 10 times and in passing defense 13 times.


PACKERS: Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers said he doesn’t expect to make a decision on whether to play next season until after the Super Bowl.

Rodgers, 39, has said he is still making up his mind on whether he wants to return to the Packers for a 19th season, retire or request a trade. The four-time MVP also has noted the possibility the Packers may want to move him.

“It’s going to be a little more time for my decision,” Rodgers said Tuesday during his weekly appearance on “The Pat McAfee Show” on SiriusXM and YouTube. “I feel confident that in a couple of weeks I’ll feel definitely more strongly about one of the two decisions.”

The first decision is whether he wants to play at all.

“You’ve got to be cognizant of what was going through your mind during the season,” Rodgers said. “Did you enjoy the grind as much? Did you enjoy practice? Did you enjoy the meeting time? Did you enjoy the routine? And not forget about those feelings and make an emotional response either way. I think that’s important.”

Rodgers was the league MVP in 2020 and 2021, but didn’t perform as well this season while playing with a broken right thumb and dealing with the absence of star wideout Davante Adams, who was traded to the Las Vegas Raiders in March.


Rodgers had his lowest passer rating as a starter and threw 12 interceptions, his highest single-season total since 2008. The Packers went 8-9 and missed the playoffs to end a string of three straight NFC North titles.

RAVENS: Tyler Huntley, who played in six games for the Ravens this season filling in for injured quarterback Lamar Jackson, has been named to the Pro Bowl roster as a replacement for injured Buffalo Bills starter Josh Allen.

The AFC roster initially included three quarterbacks: Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs, Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals and Allen. However, with Mahomes preparing for the Super Bowl and Allen sitting out, two alternates were added to the roster.

Burrow will be joined by Huntley and Trevor Lawrence of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

SALARY CAP: The NFL’s salary cap will be $224.8 million in 2023, an increase of $16.6 million.

The league informed teams of the new cap figure on Monday in a memo obtained by The Associated Press.

Overall, the cap is up $42.3 million from 2021, when it was at $182.5 million after the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic caused a decrease of nearly $10 million.

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