AFC Notes: Broncos, Sean Payton, Chargers, Chiefs


  • Broncos HC Sean Payton on joining the franchise: “Ownership was important to me. I had been exposed to a great ownership group in New Orleans.” (Albert Breer)
  • Payton continued on his return: “It’s hard to replace that when you are removed from it. For a year working with Fox, I couldn’t wait for Sunday. That was my football fix. … I couldn’t wait to get back.” (Troy Renck)
  • Payton on GM George Paton: “He is steady. I have always respected teams he’s been a part of. Zimmer and I were under Parcells at Dallas. I think we hit it off right away.” (Renck)
  • Payton on QB Russell Wilson: “The No. 1 job when evaluating players is what do they well. He’s an extremely hard worker.” (Renck)
  • As for his main goal, Payton noted that he is looking forward to winning another Super Bowl: “Definitely. That addiction is powerful. What I was looking for, I felt existed in one place, based on my exposure with the other teams.” (Ed Werder)
  • Mike Klis reports that ILB coach Peter Hansen and Broncos have decided to part ways, with Hansen being a candidate to follow Ejiro Evero to the Panthers.
  • Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer mentions multiple people have floated the possibility to him of Payton going after Mike Zimmer as his defensive coordinator. Zimmer is on the staff at Colorado right now. 
  • Utah LB Mohamoud Diabate highlighted his meeting with the Broncos at the Shrine Bowl as one that stood out to him. (Ryan Fowler)


  • The Athletic’s Daniel Popper writes the Chargers will have to make some hard decisions this offseason, as they need to clear $25 million in cap space just as a baseline to operate, setting aside making any other free agent additions. 
  • Popper lists OLB Khalil Mack, WR Keenan Allen, C Corey Linsley, G Matt Feiler, CB Michael Davis, and TE Gerald Everett as potential cuts to free up space. 
  • Cutting Everett and Feiler and restructuring OLB Joey Bosa would get the Chargers to that $25 million mark, per Popper. 
  • They could restructure other contracts to try and get more space but Popper notes the team has traditionally been hesitant to take on a lot of dead money. If they follow that playbook, it means making more cuts to create space to add free agents. 
  • Of the remaining group, Popper points out the Chargers have the most depth at receiver as opposed to cornerback or edge rusher, and cutting Allen would free up a sizable chunk of $14.8 million in cap space. 
  • The team could explore a pay cut but Popper notes Allen would likely rather explore his options in free agency given how well he played after coming back from a hamstring injury. Trade is another option but Popper isn’t sure that the Chargers would get much back. 
  • Utah LB Mohamoud Diabate highlighted his meeting with the Chargers at the Shrine Bowl as one that stood out to him. (Ryan Fowler)


Quarterback contracts are always a hot topic every offseason, and with a fresh wave of QB deals expected to get done this offseason, the Super Bowl presents a chance to look back at Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes‘ 10-year, $450 million deal which at the time made him the NFL’s far and away highest-paid passer. A few years later, that average is just fifth, but the details show how Mahomes and the team approached this deal more like a partnership to both help the Chiefs while receiving fair compensation. 

“And [Mahomes’ agent] has been on the partnership thing since we drafted Pat,” Chiefs director of football administration Brandt Tilis said via Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer. “It’s definitely a partnership, and Pat and Chris really wanted a guaranteed contract. We couldn’t do that. What we could do was what we ended up with, which is we’ll just guarantee everything a year out. And they followed the math and the cap numbers and the cash numbers and all that, and it was like, ‘How are we ever going to be able to cut this guy?’ So, I mean, it’s practically over $400 million guaranteed.”

The realities of the quarterback market mean Kansas City had to pivot with its team-building strategy once Mahomes was off his rookie deal, however. They knew they had to prioritize hitting on their draft picks, and the only way to do that for sure was to acquire more. That’s what led to the trade of WR Tyreek Hill this offseason once it became clear they weren’t going to meet his contract requirement. 

“That’s where you kinda hit the crossroads — if you want to do that, you can, but it’s not gonna be easy,” Chiefs GM Brett Veach said. “It’s gonna have to involve a talent like Tyreek Hill, and so that’s what becomes tough because it sounds good until you get to the moment where, All right, this is Tyreek Hill. This is what you said, but do you really want to trade arguably the league’s best receiver? That’s where when you have a plan, you gotta stick to it. You can’t let the emotional side kick in because you can have a plan in place.”

And Veach also was willing to admit having Mahomes on the roster gives them a pretty wide margin for error. 

“On one end, it makes it easy because Pat’s gonna make great look unbelievable, good look great, and bad look good,” Veach said. “You start with that. So on one end, it makes our job easier because Pat, his game is so dynamic and versatile, he can play a long game, and he can play a short game. He can play any style of football, and when you can play any style of football, you have much more flexibility. You’re not pigeonholed saying, ‘I need this type of receiver. This receiver’s gotta be this size, he’s gotta be able to run this route.’ Like, he can catch the football, we can play with him because Pat will get it out of him.”

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