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Conflicting reports on whether Saints can negotiate with Payton

Saints Payton Glare Football

In this Friday, July 27, 2012, photo, a banner featuring a portrait of suspended New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton hangs on the wall of the team practice facility in Matairie, La. The mural also includes the phrase, “Do your job,” which has become the unofficial motto of the club ever since Payton delivered those parting words before starting his season-long suspension in connection with the NFL’s bounty investigation. (AP Photo/The (Baton Rouge) Advocate, Patrick Dennis) MAGS OUT ONLINES OUT MAGS OUT NO SALES TV OUT FOREIGNS OUT OUT LOUISIANA BUSINESS INC./GREATER BATON ROUGE BUSINESS


The question of whether Saints coach Sean Payton will become a free agent after the season morphed on Monday into the reality that, if he’s a free agent, he can’t accept a job with a new team until his suspension ends after the Super Bowl. Which, in turn, has expanded into the question of whether the Saints can negotiate with Payton before his suspension ends.

Larry Holder of the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported on Monday afternoon that the Saints can work out a new contract with Payton, giving them an exclusive three-month window for negotiating a contract once the suspension of G.M. Mickey Loomis ends after Monday night’s game against the Eagles.

Now, Adam Schefter of ESPN (who pulled the pin on this particular grenade) reports that the Saints can’t negotiate with Payton while he’s suspended.

“There is a comprehensive ban on communication between Sean Payton and the Saints,” Schefter reports. “Until there is specific written authorization from the NFL for such a business discussion to occur -- and there has not been to date -- then it’s expected that that the Saints and Payton’s representative Don Yee will not be in conducting any conversations because they do not want to to run afoul of any suspension guidelines.”

As we understand it, however, the NFL will allow the communications aimed at fixing the flaws in the contract that was rejected.

And it would be wise for the league to do so. If Payton leaves the Saints upon becoming a free agent in February, the league will become even less popular in New Orleans. You know, the place where the Super Bowl will be played.

Maybe Payton is hell bent on leaving the Saints. If that’s the case, and if it happens after three failed months of negotiations on a contract to replace the one the league rejected, it will be much harder for Saints fans to blame the NFL for the final outcome.

Either way, the NFL, the Saints, or both need to clarify the situation ASAP.