Taysom Hill

Saints Restructure QB Taysom Hill’s Contract

Just moments after Drew Brees officially announced his retirement, the Saints took their cap gymnastics to a new level with one of their other quarterbacks.

New Orleans has restructured Taysom Hill‘s deal to create cap space by giving him a four-year, $140MM extension that entirely voids, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. A source told Schefter that “all years are voidable and it’s a mechanism to free up cap space this year,” with the 2021 cap savings being north of $7.5MM. Before you freak out, Hill isn’t getting a $140MM extension.

The consensus of Saints beat writers online seems to be that the numbers are purely theoretical, and might as well just be random numbers written down on a piece of paper. Cap maneuvering has gotten more and more complicated in recent years, and Saints GM Mickey Loomis has fashioned himself as a wizard.

Virtually every Saints veteran making more than a minimum salary has had their contract tweaked to varying degrees. In a follow-up tweet, Schefter explained that Hill’s actual contract for this year will “include a $9.686 million signing bonus, a $1.439 million guaranteed roster bonus and a $1.034 million guaranteed base salary, plus incentives.”

Thus it appears Hill’s real compensation for 2021 will be somewhere in the $12+MM range, and not the $35MM annually that four-years, $140MM would suggest. We’ll keep you posted if we get a full explanation on the new figures.

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Latest On Drew Brees’ Future

While Drew Brees has been quiet about his future, those close to him believe he’ll hang up his cleats following the season. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport relays that “everybody believes that [Brees] will retire at the end of this season” (Twitter link). The 42-year-old is “hoping for one last run through the playoffs…hoping to end his career on the podium holding a big trophy.”

While we’ve yet to hear anything definitive about the future Hall of Fame’s status going forward, the writing has been on the wall for a while. Brees inked a deal with NBC Sports last April, signaling his post-playing career. The organization also agreed to an extension with Taysom Hill this offseason, keeping their backup QB under club control through 2021. Predictably, GM Mickey Loomis recently said that Brees would be welcomed back if he wanted to continue playing beyond this season, but the executive also revealed that no final decision has been made.

The Saints got a glimpse of what a post-Brees team could look like in 2020. The veteran missed four games, with Hill going 3-1 in his stead. While Hill is better known for his versatile skill set (he finished the season with 555 yards from scrimmage and nine rushing and receiving touchdowns), he showed that he’s capable under center. The 30-year-old finished the season having completed 72.7-percent of his passes for 928 yards, four touchdowns, and two interceptions.

It sounds like the Saints are also interested in retaining the third quarterback on their roster. Rapoport reports that the organization would like to re-sign Jameis Winston, noting that the Saints “love what they’ve seen in practice.” While the team has touted Winston’s arm strength and work ethic, they’re still (predictably) wary of his tendency of interception. The former first-overall pick got into four games this season, completing seven of his 11 pass attempts for 75 yards.

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Latest on Taysom Hill, Drew Brees

Today could be the dawn of a new era for the Saints, as Taysom Hill will get the nod at quarterback in place of the injured Drew Brees. Although some were surprised that New Orleans would turn to Hill instead of the considerably more experienced Jameis Winston, the Saints and head coach Sean Payton have made it clear that they see Hill as a long-term starter.

This offseason, the Saints and Hill agreed to a two-year, $21MM extension that keeps the 30-year-old under club control through the 2021 season. $16MM of that money was guaranteed at signing, and though the contract represents a big commitment for a backup QB/Swiss Army knife, it’s a modest payout for a starting signal-caller. And soon after the deal was signed, reports surfaced indicating that the club plans to give the job to Hill if Brees retires at the end of the 2020 campaign as expected.

So, one reason New Orleans is inserting Hill into the starting lineup is simply because it believes in him and thinks he provides the best chance to win in Brees’ absence. The other, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, is that the Saints need to know what they have in Hill.

A source familiar with Payton’s thinking said, “Sean just wants to know,” when asked why the head coach is forging ahead with Hill. After all, Hill has thrown just 18 passes in his pro career, and Brees’ injury gives the Saints a perfect opportunity to see if their faith in the BYU product is justified. If Hill struggles, the club could pivot to Winston, and it could also save $5MM against the 2021 cap by cutting Hill after the season.

Some within the organization do not agree with Payton’s choice, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. Winston apparently has plenty of support among the team’s staffers, and Payton himself struggled with the decision. Depending on how things play out over the coming weeks, Winston remains an option for 2021.

As for Brees himself, his injury is even more extensive than previously thought. According to Ed Werder of ESPN.com, Brees has 11 rib fractures — eight on his left side and three on his right (Twitter link). However, doctors have been encouraged by Brees’ progress, including improvement in his lung function, and the 41-year-old passer believes he will be able to come off IR as soon as he is eligible in Week 14 (Twitter links via Werder).

Even if it takes until Week 15 for Brees to return to the field, it sounds like the Saints will have the future Hall of Famer back in time for at least one more playoff run.

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Saints Place Drew Brees On IR

Drew Brees is now guaranteed to miss at least three games. The Saints placed the future Hall of Fame quarterback on IR on Friday, shelving him until Week 14.

Sean Payton declined to confirm reports Taysom Hill will replace Brees in New Orleans’ starting lineup instead of Jameis Winston. But that appears to be the plan, with ESPN.com’s Dianna Russini indicating the team is not planning to use Winston in any packages Sunday (Twitter link).

This is quite the bold strategy for the Saints, considering Hill has thrown 18 career passes. Winston may well see time during Brees’ absence, as he did when Brees went down in Week 10, but the former Buccaneers QB is currently set to be Hill’s backup. This certainly represents a step back for the five-year Bucs starter, who stands to be a free agent again in 2021.

As for Brees, he has sought additional opinions regarding his punctured lung and cracked ribs this week. The 41-year-old passer is believed to have fractured at least five ribs and punctured a lung. He was already confirmed to miss at least two games; the IR distinction will provide the Saints a roster spot.

Given the steep dropoff between Brees and his backups, this certainly could reshape the NFC playoff picture. Only one team receives a bye this year, thanks to the new CBA’s expanded playoff bracket, and no team has made a Super Bowl appearance without a bye since 2012. The Saints did win five games with Teddy Bridgewater starting last year, however. Over the next three weeks, the Saints have two games against the Falcons — in Weeks 11 and 13 — and one against the Broncos.

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Saints To Start Taysom Hill Over Jameis Winston

With Drew Brees sidelined, it looked as though the stage was set for Jameis Winston to reassert himself as an NFL starter. Instead, the Saints go with Taysom Hill on Sunday, leaving Winston to hold the clipboard against the Falcons (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter). 

While Winston set career-highs in passing yards (5,109) and touchdowns (33) in 2019, he also set a career-high (and led the NFL) with 30 interceptions. He later agreed to a one-year, $1.1MM deal with the Saints, giving him an opportunity to learn from Brees and, perhaps, take over for him if given the opportunity.

Winston got the call when Brees’ rib injury forced him out against the Niners, and he went on to complete six of ten passes for 63 yards. Apparently, that didn’t guarantee Winston’s status as the fill-in starter ahead of Hill. Regardless of who takes the first snap, the Saints could use Winston and Hill interchangeably.

After notching their sixth-straight win, the Saints are 7-2 and marching their way towards another playoff run. Meanwhile, both of their backup QBs will be making their case to take over for Brees in 2021, if the future Hall of Famer calls it a career.

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South Notes: Saints, Texans, Colts

Taysom Hill is expected to be “the guy” at quarterback for the Saints whenever Drew Brees decides to retire, as Jay Glazer of The Athletic writes. Brees has already signed a post-career deal with NBC Sports, and the 2020 season may or may not be his final year in the NFL, so Hill could be in line to become New Orleans’ starter as soon as next year. The drawbacks on Hill are apparent: he’ll be 31 years old when the 2021 campaign gets underway, and he’s only attempted 13 passes over the course of his career. But the Saints have nothing but shower with him praise in addition to extending him on a two-year pact that includes nearly $17.5MM in guaranteed money and a $16.1MM cap charge in 2021. Per Glazer, New Orleans isn’t attempting a “smokescreen” — the club is comfortable will Hill under center if Brees hangs up his cleats.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two South divisions:

Details On Taysom Hill’s Contract, 2020 Role

Last week, the Saints signed Taysom Hill to a two-year extension worth $21MM ($16MM guaranteed) that will tether him to the team through the 2021 season. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk provides a breakdown of the deal, which features a $1.4MM roster bonus for 2021 that has already become guaranteed and a $10.72MM 2021 salary, $5.72MM of which was guaranteed at signing.

Those details confirm what we already knew: that the Saints are committed to Hill as the successor to Drew Brees in 2021. Hill’s contract, though seemingly rich for a soon-to-be 30-year-old QB who has thrown 13 regular season passes in his pro career, is still modest for a starting quarterback, which New Orleans needs given the dead money charges it will be carrying for Brees for the next few seasons.

Since the Saints have not made their support of Hill a secret, some have wondered why the BYU product did not gamble on himself this year by playing out the season under his first-round RFA tender (worth $4.6MM) and hoping for a franchise tag in 2021. But as Florio observes, if Hill is used more as a RB or WR in 2020, his tag number would come in far lower than the QB tag. Plus, if the salary cap falls in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the non-exclusive tag number — which is driven by the salary cap — would see a corresponding drop.

Speaking of Hill’s usage, Hill himself expects that he will not be used as much on special teams in 2020, as Katherine Terrell of The Athletic tweets. Hill was deployed on 62% of the Saints’ ST snaps in 2019 after an 80% rate in 2018, and that number should continue to decline as Hill’s development as a passer becomes more of a focus. However, we previously heard that New Orleans still plans to utilize his athleticism and versatility to spark the offense.

Hill added that a two-year contract was the best outcome for both sides, and he said negotiations with the Saints began several months ago (Twitter link via Terrell). Other teams did kick the tires on him, but the first-round RFA tender prevented rival clubs from giving him an offer sheet.

The Saints also signed Jameis Winston to guard against the possibility of a Hill injury, but it looks like Winston’s tenure in New Orleans will only last for a season (unless he chooses to re-up as Hill’s backup in 2021). In light of Andy Dalton‘s new contract with the Cowboys, Winston’s modest deal with New Orleans looks like a win for the team.

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Saints Extend Taysom Hill

The Saints have agreed to a two-year contract with quarterback Taysom Hill, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (via Twitter). According to Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports, the deal is worth $21MM and includes $16MM in guarantees (Twitter link). It replaces the one-year RFA tender worth $4.6MM that the Saints had placed on Hill earlier this offseason.

The move comes immediately after the Saints agreed to sign free agent signal-caller Jameis Winston. Prior to the Hill extension, both players would have been eligible for unrestricted free agency at the end of the 2020 campaign, meaning that New Orleans could take the entire season to evaluate them, to decide which one was best-suited to serve as Drew Brees‘ successor, and to move on from the loser of the battle at season’s end.

Now, however, that’s not necessarily the case. If Hill should prove himself worthy of the QB1 title in 2021, then the Saints will have him under contract at a very modest rate for starting quarterbacks and can bid Winston farewell. But if Winston should win out and if New Orleans should retain him, then the team will owe a ton of money to its QB2/gadget player, even by its standards of commitment to backup signal-callers. The whole affair could become even more complicated if Brees wants to return, and it suggests that the team really is committed to Hill — as it has stated for some time — and views Winston as a highly-experienced insurance policy in 2020 but not as a potential future option.

Per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, the Saints won’t officially sign Winston until after 3pm ET tomorrow in order to avoid having him against their 2021 compensatory pick formula (Twitter link).

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NFC Notes: Hill, Saints, Giants, Herbert, Long, Falcons, Reiff, Vikings

The Saints used a first-round RFA tender on Taysom Hill. However, the gadget player/backup quarterback is not expected to sign it in the near future, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports. Hill will, however, participate in New Orleans’ virtual offseason program, per Florio. RFAs have until June 15 to sign their tenders or teams can rescind them and pay 120% of their 2019 salaries. No noise on a potential Hill offer sheet surfaced this offseason, but Drew Brees‘ backup did say he was open to leaving New Orleans if he felt the Saints would not give him an opportunity to start. Despite coming into the league in 2017, the BYU alum will turn 30 this year. It’s been widely reported that the Saints intend to have Hill take over whenever Brees hangs up his cleats. Hill stands to make $4.7MM this year on the first-round tender.

  • An NFL exec called the Giants‘ belated (and somewhat bizarre) Justin Herbert interest “a smokescreen that isn’t working,” Matt Lombardo of NJ.com notes. A report surfaced Monday indicating the Giants had done a lot of work on the Oregon product, but another pointed to the obvious: the team will not use its No. 4 overall pick on a quarterback. Only twice in the past 38 years has a team drafted QBs in back-to-back first rounds — the 1982-83 Baltimore Colts and the 2018-19 Cardinals. Instead, the Giants are believed to want to trade down, per the anonymous exec, but are not finding enough interest.
  • Had Chris Long not signed with the Patriots in 2016, the Falcons would have been his choice, the recently retired defensive end said during an appearance on FS1’s First Things First (via NBC Sports Boston). Chris Long visited the Falcons during an offseason that saw other teams pursue him as well. However, Long’s father, Hall of Famer Howie Long, advised him to choose the Patriots because of their winning pedigree. The Patriots ended up beating the Falcons in overtime in Super Bowl LI. Chris had spent his first eight seasons with the Rams and never been to the playoffs. With the Patriots in 2016 and Eagles in 2017, Long ended up winning two Super Bowls.
  • Rumored as a potential cap casualty, Riley Reiff remains on the Vikings. However, the team could look to find another left tackle early in this draft, Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press writes. Former Vikings coach Mike Tice does not think much of Reiff at left tackle, his primary NFL position. Reiff did, however, play guard at Iowa before moving outside during his Hawkeyes tenure. The Vikings have an opening at right guard, having released Josh Kline earlier this offseason. Minnesota holds two first-round picks — Nos. 22 and 25 — but without a trade-up will not be in range to land a top-tier left tackle. The team also features bigger needs at cornerback and wide receiver.

NFC South Notes: Hill, Brate, Walker

The Saints expect Taysom Hill to take over for Drew Brees when Brees calls it a career, and to that end, they placed a first-round RFA tender on the BYU product earlier this month. Teddy Bridgewater had served as the backup to Brees over the past couple of seasons while Hill’s role as a gadget player grew, but head coach Sean Payton confirmed that Hill will be the QB2 in 2020. “He’s earned that opportunity,” Payton said (Twitter link via Jeff Duncan of The Athletic).

However, the team still expects to use Hill as a rusher and receiver next season, so Payton said New Orleans will add another QB that will be active on game days (Twitter link via Duncan). The Saints are expected to explore a long-term contract for Hill in the near future.

Now for more from the NFC South:

  • Cameron Brate‘s recent restructure with the Buccaneers is better classified as a pay cut. Per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, Brate accepted a decrease in his 2020 salary from $6MM to $4.25MM (Twitter link). The move will keep Brate, a quality red zone target, in the fold for Tom Brady while buying the team a little more cap space.
  • Several days ago, the Panthers beat out several clubs for the services of XFL signal-caller P.J. Walker. Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle says Walker’s pact with Carolina is a two-year deal worth $1.565MM, a pretty nice haul for an XFLer who has yet to crack an active roster in the NFL (Twitter link).
  • CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson‘s new one-year deal with the Falcons includes a base salary of $1.05MM and a singing bonus of $137.5K, as Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com tweets.