NFL

Saints Guaranteeing Taysom Hill $16 Million is a Massive Mistake

With one Freudian slip, Sean Payton revealed that 2020 will be the final year of the Drew Brees era. That immediately raised questions about Taysom Hill’s future with the New Orleans Saints. A free agent himself, some speculated that Hill would leave New Orleans for a chance to be a starting quarterback. Ultimately, that never happened, as the Saints retained the restricted free agent on a one-year tender.

However, with Brees back in the fold, Teddy Bridgewater in Carolina and Jameis Winston apparently on the way, the Saints surprisingly handed Hill a new two-year deal on Sunday. And unless he suddenly pulls an Aaron Rodgers and emerges as a legitimate quarterback after spending years on the bench behind an NFL legend, Taysom Hill will have stolen $16 million from the Saints without ever throwing a single touchdown pass.

Taysom Hill is the NFL’s ultimate swiss army knife

NFL coaches value versatility. It helps save precious roster spots and valuable salary-cap space. And when it comes to Taysom Hill, there isn’t a more diverse player in the NFL. Though he’s listed as a quarterback, the BYU product lines up all over the field for the Saints. In fact, his 2019 snap count reveals he spent far more time not playing quarterback.

Payton deployed Hill in a number of creative ways that resulted in some eye-popping production. Last season, Hill totaled 156 rushing yards on 27 carries. He also caught 19-of-22 targets for 234 yards. The 6-foot-2, 221-pounder also played 62 percent of the Saints’ special-teams snaps after hitting the 80 percent mark in 2018.

Yet, the supposed Brees replacement has only attempted 13 passes in 37 games. Those throws have resulted in six completions for 119 yards and one interception. Though Payton has referred to Hill as a franchise quarterback, the highly-hyped offensive weapon has never even thrown a touchdown pass.

Saints signed backup QB to $21 million deal

While Taysom Hill certainly gives the Saints a talented chess piece, it’s a stretch to say he’s truly a quarterback given his 13 career passing attempts. Despite a thin resume, the Saints signed Hill to a two-year, $21 million deal over the weekend. That represented a major boost for the soon-to-be 30-year-old. According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, the agreement will keep Hill in a Saints uniform through the 2021 season. He provided a more detailed breakdown of the deal:

  • Signing bonus: $8 million.
  • 2020 base salary: $841,000, fully guaranteed.
  • 2021 roster bonus: $1.439 million, due on the fifth day of the league year and fully guaranteed five days after signing.
  • 2021 base salary: $10.72 million, $5.72 million of which is fully guaranteed at signing.

Florio also added that Hill’s two-year contract includes multiple performance incentives based on various passing stats. Considering he will likely enter 2021 with zero starting experience, it’s difficult to imagine how the Saints expect Hill to make such a quantum leap.

However, for Hill, getting $16 million guaranteed with the ability to make up to $21 million represents a massive pay raise for a player who was an erratic passer in college and has essentially been a trick-play specialist in the NFL so far. Can you imagine any other NFL franchise paying that type of money to a player who ranked 17th on his team in offensive snaps?

Will Taysom Hill take over for Drew Brees in 2021?

If Drew Brees does retire after this season, the Saints will be in a tough position. On one hand, no one knows Taysom Hill’s strengths and weaknesses better than Payton and his coaching staff. On the other hand, it seems like a huge stretch to think that a player with such little experience behind center can capably replace one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.

The Winston addition only further complicates Hill’s future. The former No. 1 overall pick is expected to join the Saints on a one-year deal. Based on his talent and production alone, Winston would seem like a more logical successor to Brees. Of course, he will need to iron out his turnover issues and prove to Payton that he has the leadership and intangibles to be the Saints’ franchise QB. Though Winston will be a free agent in 2021, he could significantly increase his value by learning from Brees and Payton and stepping in if the aging quarterback suffers an injury. That could make him a more suitable candidate to sign to a long-term deal as the successor to Brees.

In a pure quarterback battle, even the turnover-prone Winston would likely blow Hill out of the water. While Winston can’t replicate Hill’s multi-faceted role, the latter has no track record of playing quarterback at a high level. Perhaps Payton simply wanted to have a high-upside insurance policy. Maybe the Saints really do expect the southpaw specialist to take over for Drew Brees in 2021. Either way, Taysom Hill getting $16 million from the Saints despite never throwing a touchdown pass should go down as one of the worst NFL contracts in recent history.