The New Orleans Saints and suspended coach Sean Payton will be together again next season as the bounty scandal fades into history and the bid to win a second Super Bowl resumes.
Payton has agreed in principle to a multiyear contract extension, according to two people familiar with the deal.
The people spoke about the deal Friday night on condition of anonymity because it hasn’t been signed and final details regarding the length of the contract and financial compensation are still being worked out.
“Very happy it is official,” quarterback Drew Brees said in an email to the AP. “Never had any doubts.”
Payton was due to begin his seventh season as the Saints’ head coach in 2012 before being suspended for the whole season by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in connection with the NFL’s bounty investigation.
Payton signed an extension in 2011 that would have kept him in New Orleans through 2015, but Goodell objected to certain language in that deal, leaving Payton’s future uncertain until the deal was reached Friday. The language in question in the previous extension gave Payton the right to opt out early if general manager Mickey Loomis left the club for any reason.
The new agreement also must be approved by the NFL.
Payton is the only coach in Saints history to win a Super Bowl, a title earned at the end of the 2009 season. But his legacy was tarnished by the NFL’s bounty probe as Goodell ruled that Payton failed to exert proper institutional control over a cash-for-hits bounty program run by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams from 2009-2011.
The commissioner also suspended Loomis for half of the season and assistant head coach Joe Vitt for six games.
Payton is 62-34 as in regular-season games as Saints coach and 5-3 in the postseason. Without Payton on the sideline this season, the Saints missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Brees remained prolific, but his 18 interceptions also tied for a league high heading into the final weekend of the season.
The Saints headed into Sunday’s season finale against Carolina at 7-8, hoping to avoid their first losing season since they went 7-9 in 2007.
Payton is expected to return to the Saints immediately after the Super Bowl on Feb. 3, unless Goodell allows him to return earlier.
MJD HAS FOOT SURGERY
The Jaguars’ star running back, Maurice Jones-Drew, had surgery on his left foot and will be out at least until May. The operation came 10 weeks after he hurt his foot at Oakland on Oct. 21 and created plenty of questions about why the team didn’t opt for surgery months ago.
The Jaguars (2-13) were 1-5 after that loss, in the middle of a seven-game losing streak, and knew Jones-Drew would be out an extended period. Surgery was an option back then.
Coach Mike Mularkey said he, like others, had hoped the injury would heal without surgery, but added the two-month delay means little because players can’t start offseason work with coaches until April 15.
NEW QBS SET TO START
Oakland coach Dennis Allen picked Terrelle Pryor to make his first career start at quarterback in the final regular-season game in San Diego. Pryor, who had been splitting time in practice with Matt Leinart, starts in place of injured Carson Palmer. … Thad Lewis, Cleveland’s third-string quarterback, will start the season finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers and their top-ranked defense. He’s filling in for injured quarterbacks Brandon Weeden and Colt McCoy, who are both nursing sprained right shoulders.
More than 400 people affected by the Newtown, Conn., shootings, including 200 or so students from Sandy Hook Elementary School, will be guests of the Giants at Sunday’s game against the Eagles. … Ravens safety Ed Reed was fined $55,000 by the NFL for his high hit on Giants receiver Victor Cruz last weekend. Reed had a one-game suspension for several helmet-to-helmet hits reduced to a $50,000 fine last month. … Receiver Davone Bess has been ruled out of the Dolphins’ season finale at New England because of a back injury. He finishes with 61 catches for 778 yards and one score.