CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WNCN) – The Carolina Panthers, who were officially supposed to interview Super Bowl-winning head coach Sean Payton on Friday, has now delayed the meeting following the death of Charlotte FC defender Anton Walkes.

The interview finalization, first reported by ESPN’s Diana Russini, said the former New Orleans Saints head coach and Panthers owner David Tepper would meet Friday in Manhattan, New York.

Now, NFL Insider Ian Rapoport reports the Panthers’ contingent that was in New York conducting interviews flew home in the wake of Walkes’ death.

“The Panthers contingent that was in NY conducting coaching interviews flew home following the passing of Charlotte FC soccer player Anton Walkes. The group was to interview Sean Payton Friday. That’s now on hold as owner David Tepper spends time supporting grieving players,” Rapoport tweeted.

Charlotte FC defender Anton Walkes died early Thursday morning after a boat crash in south Florida.

Tepper owns both the Panthers and Charlotte FC.

Payton, who stepped away from coaching after 2021, confirmed on “The Herd with Colin Cowherd” on Monday that he will interview for the vacancies with the Panthers, Houston Texans and Denver Broncos. Payton was officially eligible to begin interviews on Tuesday, despite reports of him finishing his interview with Houston on Monday night.

Payton is still under contract with the Saints through 2024. This means the hiring team still has to reach a deal with New Orleans in order to officially hire him. New Orleans also has to grant permission to Payton and the team wanting to interview him to allow both parties to meet up.

However, The Athletic spoke to Panthers great Greg Olsen on Wednesday who laid out why it would only seemingly set the organization back to hire Payton.

The former NFL tight end said it would likely cost Carolina its No. 9 overall pick to acquire Payton. Sending that to a division rival, when the team could again be shopping for a quarterback, doesn’t make sense.

There’s also speculation that wherever Payton goes, current Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady would go, too.

“If you’re the Panthers and you’re a team that is looking to finally get stability at the quarterback position, I know he’s Tom Brady. But you bring in another veteran, it’s probably for one year,” Olsen told The Athletic. “You probably lose the ninth overall pick if you have Sean, so you’re not gonna draft your future (quarterback). So how are you gonna get your quarterback behind Tom? You’re not gonna get in the draft because you’re not gonna have a first-round pick. Hopefully, if you bring in Tom, you don’t have a top-10 pick next year. How far do you kick the can?”

There’s some merit to Brady being on the move after Tampa Bay fired offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, specialists coach Chris Boniol, wide receivers coach Kevin Garver, offensive quality controls coach Jeff Kastl, assistant DL coach Lori Locust, and running backs, coach Todd McNair. Quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen, senior offensive assistant Rick Christophel and outside linebackers coach Bob Sanders also all retired on Thursday.

However, inner-division trades are rare.

The most recent one was the Detroit Lions agreeing to trade tight end T.J. Hockenson to the Minnesota Vikings for multiple picks. Let’s be honest; we’re still scratching our heads.


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However, Olsen did call hiring Payton a “no-brainer” in his interview with The Athletic if it came down to it.

“Offensive guy, decades of experience, quarterback developer, proven winner,” Olsen told The Athletic. “They were winning consistently winning, consistently in the playoffs — year in, year out. So I think he’s gotta be at the top.”

Olsen commented on Carolina needing an offensive-minded head coach leading the team, pointing at the teams in this year’s playoffs as an example of their importance. But fears the factors that go into Payton are still too steep.

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