Sean Payton has key relationship that could lead to Broncos landing franchise QB

Could this relationship lead to the Broncos moving up for a franchise QB?
Denver Broncos
Denver Broncos / Stacy Revere/GettyImages

The Denver Broncos could have a new franchise quarterback very soon, and they might have Sean Payton's extensive network of connections to thank for it. We've seen so many former New Orleans Saints employees -- players, coaches, even people from the front office -- join Sean Payton in Denver since he got hired by the Broncos, but Payton's network outside of Denver and even outside of New Orleans could be hugely beneficial when it comes to the 2024 NFL Draft.

In particular, if the Broncos are going to be trading up for a quarterback, Payton's relationship and history with Atlanta Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot could end up being a connection to watch.

Fontenot actually got to the Saints organization before Sean Payton, being hired there in 2003 as a scout. He climbed up the rung slowly but surely over the years, being named the Saints' Director of Pro Scouting in 2013 and their VP of Player Personnel and Assistant GM in 2020. He was hired away by the Atlanta Falcons in the 2021 offseason, landing his first-ever GM job in the NFL.

But as far as how well he and Payton know each other? Well, they worked together from 2006-2020 before Fontenot left for the Falcons in 2021. There's undoubtedly relationship equity built there, and the Falcons might be able to help the Denver Broncos land their franchise quarterback. The Falcons already accomplished that in NFL Free Agency, signing away Kirk Cousins from the Minnesota Vikings.

The Falcons currently hold the 8th overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. They could move down with Denver and acquire some additional NFL Draft capital (possibly even a pick as high as Denver's 2nd-rounder in 2025) while also helping the Broncos land their next franchise QB. They are probably ideal trade partners for a variety of reasons.

The Falcons will likely be able to narrow their list of top targets down to four or five guys that will realistically be available with the 8th overall selection, and it's pretty likely at least one of those guys -- if not multiple of them -- will still be on the board at 12 overall. Alabama's Dallas Turner and Terrion Arnold have been rumored fits for the Falcons, as have Florida State's Jared Verse, Toledo's Quinyon Mitchell, and basically any of the top defensive players in this class.

Even if the Falcons wanted a top-tier offensive lineman, they'd be able to have their cake and eat it too by trading down to the 12th overall pick. But the relationship between Payton and Fontenot could give the Broncos an edge over other teams that might be trying to trade up into that slot.

And it would be the perfect trade distance for the Denver Broncos. The Broncos could move up into the top six selections, but that would be extremely difficult. Not only would the Broncos likely have to give up their 2025 first-round pick (and more), but the Chargers at #5 overall aren't helping them out. So the Broncos would have to hope that the Cardinals at #4 overall or the Giants at #6 overall would be willing to dance.

If the Broncos are targeting someone like JJ McCarthy, and he falls outside of the top five picks, they would probably need to have a deal in place with a team like Atlanta, and they would also have to hope that the Titans or Giants wouldn't sell off their picks to a team like the Vikings or Raiders. There's so much stress involved, but that's the fun of the NFL Draft.

That relationship between Payton and Fontenot could ultimately lead to the Broncos making the highest QB selection in franchise history. It could be the type of move to alter the trajectory of the team. It wouldn't be shocking to see a scenario in which those two teams have a deal in place before the draft if a player like McCarthy or Drake Maye is still on the board.