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The Miami Dolphins were prepared to pay Sean Payton how much to coach for them?

Sean Payton is great at drawing up plays. But his greatest talent? Getting people to scheme up league-altering hypothetical moves for him.

As the story goes, Sean Payton was thisclose to being traded to the Dallas Cowboys, in what would've been the first coaching trade since Jon Gruden was dealt from the Oakland Raiders to the Tampa Bay Bucs in 2002. The deal was ready to go in late January 2019, fresh off the Saints' controversial loss to the LA Rams in the NFC Championship, until Anthony Davis announced he wouldn't re-sign with the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Pelicans management was also the Saints management and, as Mike Florio reported for Pro Football Talk, Saints GM/Pelicans executive VP Mickey Loomis didn't want to be known as the guy that led The Brow and Payton walk, so the deal was squashed. 

Payton coached 2019, 2020 and '21 in New Orleans, before walking away. On his way out, Payton walked right into another all-time NFL "What If?"

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported this week the Miami Dolphins were prepared to pay Payton $100 million over five years to be their head coach. Moving in concert with that deal was a ploy to bring Tom Brady over from Tampa Bay, making him their QB1 and part-owner.

Rumors of this deal have been out there since the winter, the figures of what Miami would've paid Payton have not.

As we know, the deal ultimately did not happen.

On Feb. 1, former Dolphins head coach Brian Flores named the club in a discrimination lawsuit against the NFL. The New York Giants were the main target of the suit, but Flores also said Dolphins owner Stephen Ross pressured him to tank in his first season on the job, and also pressured him to break NFL tampering rules by meeting with a quarterback under contract with another team.

Maneuvering Payton and Brady out of New Orleans and Tampa Bay and into Miami in the wake of that Flores lawsuit would've been tough. Tougher than letting Anthony Davis and Payton leave New Orleans in the same year. 

Brady did not deny involvement in the plot when asked about it earlier this month -- "I had a lot of conversations with a lot of people..." -- but all parties have since moved on. The Dolphins hired Mike McDaniel. Brady came out of retirement in Tampa Bay, then took a $375 million contract to be Fox's No. 1 NFL analyst/corporate pitchman.

And, for his part, Payton denied knowing anything about Miami's grand scheme. New Orleans owned Payton's rights, and still does through 2023. So maybe they never would've let him leave, even if Brady did wriggle out of Tampa. And maybe Payton never would've agreed to go in the first place.  

"I have no clue about the Tampa Bay-Miami Dolphin-Tom Brady rumor. My understanding is, there was a request put in where the intermediaries talked. I'm like the rest of you, I heard that story," Payton said. "I wasn't coaching. I told you guys that already. If I had been ready to coach, like this year, I would have stayed in New Orleans. It's nice to have someone interested, and that's about it. Our focus on Tom Brady has been about beating him, not joining him."

Payton will spend 2022 in Fox's NFL studio, but the spry 58-year-old has very much left the door open to returning to coaching. Maybe in 2023. Maybe in '24. Maybe never. 

Payton is a smart, accomplished, talented football coach. But it seems his greatest talent is finding his way into league-altering hypothetical deals that never actually happen... and now he's available for NFL matchmakers on a full-time basis.