NFL

Sean Payton Sacrificed Millions to Steal the Next Taysom Hill From the Panthers

It’s been a decade since Sean Payton led the New Orleans Saints to their last Super Bowl title. In that span, Drew Brees and his arsenal of weapons have come painstakingly close to hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. But with a few strokes of bad luck, the Saints have watched their postseason dreams die in tragic fashion. As one of the NFL’s most advanced offensive minds, Payton has managed to construct a terrifyingly diverse offense that emphasizes versatility, speed and explosion. Perhaps no one sums that up better than Taysom Hill.

And during the 2020 NFL draft, Sean Payton sacrificed draft capital and millions of dollars in order to swipe the next version of his possible Brees successor right from the clutches of the Carolina Panthers.

Sean Payton has crafted a unique role for Taysom Hill

Call him a quarterback. Call him a tight end. Call him whatever you want. At the end of the day, Taysom Hill is a key offensive weapon for the Saints. The former BYU dual-threat quarterback joined New Orleans as an undrafted free agent. That hasn’t stopped Sean Payton from crafting new ways to incorporate the highly athletic, versatile chess piece.

With Brees entrenched as QB1, Hill has served a number of complementary roles for one of the NFL’s most explosive offenses. Capable of running, catching, throwing, blocking and even tackling, the 6-foot-2, 221-pounder easily ranks as the league’s most versatile player. In 37 career games, Hill has totaled 352 rushing yards, 238 receiving yards, 119 passing yards and 360 return yards. He’s even chipped in 13 tackles as a core special-teamer. The three-year pro has totaled nine touchdowns despite playing a surprisingly low percentage of the team’s offensive snaps.

Saints signed Drew Brees’ backup to a huge contract

Sean Payton has said the Saints view Taysom Hill as a franchise quarterback. This offseason, the team put their money where their mouth is. Initially, New Orleans placed the restricted free-agent tender on Hill. However, that one-year, $4.64 million deal disappeared quickly.

Right after the 2020 NFL draft ended, the Saints wasted no time locking up their versatile backup quarterback to a two-year deal worth up to $21 million. Despite never throwing a single touchdown pass, Hill got $16 million guaranteed. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reported that the contract included an $8 million signing bonus, a $1.439 million 2021 roster bonus, and $5.72 million guaranteed in 2021 base salary. Essentially, the Saints have Hill on board for the next two seasons as the organization plans for the post-Brees era.

Payton’s savage 2020 NFL draft maneuver

Bolstering the quarterback room seems to be the theme for the Saints this offseason. Bringing back Drew Brees represented the first step. Locking up Hill ensured some continuity. Signing Jameis Winston added another intriguing layer to a loaded QB room. But what Sean Payton did at the end of the 2020 NFL draft was straight savage.

According to Jeff Duncan of The Athletic, the Saints coveted Mississippi State quarterback Tommy Stevens. However, without a seventh-round pick, they engaged in aggressive negotiations to prospectively add him as an undrafted free agent. They faced stiff competition from the Panthers, whose offensive coordinator Joe Brady had familiarity with the talented QB. Of course, Brady worked under Payton in New Orleans before becoming a household name as LSU’s passing-game coordinator last season.

The Saints learned the Panthers had offered Stevens a $15,000 signing bonus and guaranteed $30,000 of his salary, a relatively modest offer. They told Baker they were willing to match it and pitched Stevens on the opportunity to become Taysom 2.0 in New Orleans.

The Saints then upped their offer to a $144,000 guaranteed salary. But after not hearing back from Stevens’ representation, New Orleans went all-in to ensure they got Taysom Hill 2.0. Sean Payton and the front office traded their 2021 sixth-round pick to the Houston Texans for the 240th overall pick. Instead of settling for an UDFA contract, Stevens secured a $2.7 million rookie contract and the Panthers were left licking their wounds at the altar.

Nobody knows if the 6-foot-5, 237-pounder will become the next Taysom Hill, but Sean Payton’s bold move allowed the talented signal-caller to earn a nice rookie deal while also giving the Saints an intriguing quarterback prospect.