When the Arizona Cardinals called New Orleans to inquire about the availability of Adrian Peterson, the Saints saw an opportunity to both get a draft pick and give the legendary running back a chance to be a feature back again.
Rookie Alvin Kamara's emergence as an all-around back had created a logjam at the running back position in New Orleans, and the bruising Peterson had been the odd man out.
Peterson, who had said all the right things about sharing time but acknowledged he'd like to play more, joins an Arizona team in need of a lead back since David Johnson suffered an injury in the season opener.
"I think this was a win-win," Payton said. "Our relationship, I would say, has been fantastic, and it was an opportunity, really, where he was going to get somewhere and be featured more. I'm happy that opportunity's come up and we were able to make a trade."
Payton, who says he'd talked a lot with Peterson in the first few months of the season, believes Arizona is getting a back who can still be a force.
"In my discussions with Steve Keim, yesterday, it was like hey, this guy still has it," Payton said. "Here's what he does well, and we've seen it, it's just a little crowded right now."
New Orleans simply couldn't give Peterson the opportunities he needs.
Mark Ingram is averaging 4.0 yards per carry and ranks third on the team with 15 catches, and Kamara has been a revelation, averaging 5.5 yards per carry and second on the team with 20 receptions.
In a New Orleans offense that prizes versatility at the running back position, it was getting harder and harder to keep Peterson on the field.
"One of the challenges, obviously, when you have the depth we had, is having enough touches for all these guys," Payton said. "Both Mark and Alvin have been playing well."
Payton also acknowledged the difficulty of team-building in the offseason. Unlike the NBA, which holds its draft before free agency, the NFL holds the draft after most free agents have been signed, and New Orleans signed Peterson without knowing what they would have in Kamara.
The Saints coach wouldn't say if he'd have still signed Peterson if the running back had been available after the draft.
"These are all hypotheticals," Payton said. "Had I known if I could draft Kamara, and Kamara was going to be good as a runner and receiver, and had I known. ... All of those things are fantasy."