The New Orleans Saints will be placing a first round tender on restricted free agent Taysom Hill for the 2020 season. That means that if another team makes a contract offer to Hill, the Saints will have one week to match the offer or receive a first-round draft choice in return. The high tender decreases the chance that a team attempts to pry the all-purpose offensive weapon away from New Orleans. The news, which was first reported by Adam Schefter of ESPN on Friday afternoon, was not unexpected if you’ve been paying attention to the comments from Saints Coach Sean Payton. Schefter added that New Orleans is expected to negotiate a long-term deal with their Jack-of-all-trades star.
Although New Orleans seems poised to lock up the versatile Hill, there are still plenty of questions about where his long-term fit with the organization lies. If Coach Payton were to be taken at his word, Taysom Hill is the successor to Drew Brees as the quarterback of the New Orleans Saints. Payton has said in several interviews since the end of the 2019 season that Hill’s future is at quarterback and even went as far as comparing him to former 49ers Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young. Could Payton have over inflated Hill’s value as a quarterback to bait a team into surrendering a valuable 1st round pick? Perhaps. But the New Orleans coach has done little to tip his hand as far as what he has ultimately planned for his backup quarterback.
Taysom Hill, who will turn 30 before the start of the regular season, has done little to show anyone that he has the abilities of a franchise quarterback. He has completed 6 of his 13 regular season passing attempts for 119 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. Most of those were on gadget plays, so perhaps not a fair indicator of his true quarterbacking skills. Hill has a strong arm, outstanding athleticism, and underrated accuracy. This will be his third full offseason and fourth year with the Saints after being waived as an undrafted free agent by the Green Bay Packers at the start of the 2017 regular season. The biggest sample size we’ve seen from Hill as a quarterback have been over the last two preseasons. He struggled in several aspects behind center in the summer of 2018 but showed great improvement last year. Still, when Brees missed five games with a thumb injury last year, Payton showed no hesitation in turning to the more experienced Teddy Bridgewater and keeping Hill in his offensive role.
Hill showed improved mechanics during the 2019 preseason. He still has an elongated release however, which allows defensive backs to get a better break on the ball. A delayed release can also throw off the rhythm of a timing-based offensive system like the Saints. It’s a system that has helped stars like wideout Michael Thomas and running back Alvin Kamara thrive. The athleticism that Hill adds to position have been matched by few at the position in NFL history. We have seen running quarterbacks have success, but the success of the New Orleans offense revolves around the talents of Thomas, Kamara, and tight end Jared Cook. Hill was a big part of that success in 2019. He had 156 rushing yards and a touchdown on 27 attempts and added 19 receptions for 234 yards and six touchdowns as a receiver.
Taysom Hill’s greatest value to the New Orleans Saints is his versatility. He changed the momentum of several games with his game breaking ability, including a dominating performance in the Saints playoff loss to the Vikings. He made remarkable progress as a receiver and had earned the trust of Brees in key moments. Hill has stated his desire to be a starting quarterback in the NFL, and his coach has expressed his confidence in Hill to do just that. Hill will be given snaps at quarterback this preseason, and we should keep a close eye on how much progress he has made at the position. I believe that the successor to Drew Brees will come through the draft though, and that New Orleans will sign a veteran free agent to back up Brees this season. The Saints made a wise decision by keeping one of their offense’s most important players, but the question of who will eventually take over for their Hall of Fame signal caller remains unanswered.