Sources: Sean Payton eyes Vic Fangio as DC upon coaching return

Sean Payton is so interested in returning to coaching in the NFL that he's already putting together an all-star staff that includes former Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio as his potential defensive coordinator, league sources told ESPN.

Payton has been working as an analyst at Fox, but he also is watching from afar as the NFL's coaching carousel is expected to continue to spin later this month with what experts expect to be somewhere between five and seven head coach openings, sources said.

The Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts have already fired their head coaches during the 2022 season.

Payton is regarded as the top available head-coaching candidate, and he will not come cheaply. Any team that wants to hire the former New Orleans Saints head coach will have to make Payton one of the game's highest-paid coaches, and also compensate New Orleans with a draft pick or multiple picks, according to sources.

Any team that does decide to meet Payton and the Saints' price now could be getting a coaching tandem that would bring instant credibility and respectability.

Fangio is regarded as one of the game's top defensive minds and is expected to be in demand from more than just Payton. But in an ideal world, Payton and Fangio would like to join forces in 2023 and provide a team with the offensive and defensive mindsets it would need to form a top coaching duo.

Payton, 58, stepped down as the Saints' coach earlier this year but said in September that he would be interested in a return to coaching "if the right situation presented itself." He went 152-89 (.631 winning percentage) in 16 seasons with the Saints and coached New Orleans to the only championship in franchise history with a victory over the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV.

Fangio, 64, was fired by the Broncos in January after going 19-30 in three seasons. He has extensive experience as an NFL defensive coordinator with the Bears, 49ers, Texans, Colts and Panthers.