Taysom Hill

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.

Saints To Place First-Round Tender On Taysom Hill

The Saints clearly don’t intend on letting Taysom Hill go anywhere. New Orleans is planning to place a first-round tender on the restricted free agent, a source told Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

Hill can still sign an offer sheet with another team, but the Saints will have the opportunity to match it. If they declined to do so, the offering team would have to give the Saints their first-round pick. It’s extremely rare for a team to be willing to give up a first-round pick for a restricted free agent, but Saints coach Sean Payton said recently he thought a team would still make an offer for Hill even if they put the first-round tender on him.

To that end, it sounds like the Saints are going to move quickly to extend him so that it doesn’t get to that point, as Schefter reports they “plan to re-sign him soon anyway.” Assuming they agree to an extension before free agency opens, it’ll be very interesting to see what that deal looks like. The reporting all offseason has indicated that the team views Hill as Drew Brees‘ eventual successor, and this move further confirms that.

The former gadget player has taken on an increasingly large role on offense, and that figures to only get larger in 2020. Hill threw only 14 passes last season, but Payton seems to have all the confidence in the world in him. In a separate tweet, Schefter notes that the first-round tender for quarterbacks is expected to be worth around $5MM in 2020, but that the team is confident they’ll have a deal done soon. Given how they’ve talked about him, he’ll likely blow past that number with any extension.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

QB Notes: Hill, Stafford, Winston

Saints quarterback/athlete Taysom Hill has been the center of quite a bit of early offseason buzz. While the free-agent quarterback class is highlighted by the likes of Tom Brady and Drew Brees, a third-string quarterback, who threw just 14 passes last season, has dominated conversations. Hill has sparked a fervent debate around whether he has a future as a franchise quarterback, or is just a valuable weapon to deploy in certain packages. In an in-depth look at the situation, Katherine Terrell of The Athletic, dives into his circumstances and makes the case for Hill.

Here are some more quarterback notes from around the league:

  • Some early offseason murmurs suggested that Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford could be on the trade block. Detroit general manager Bob Quinn was quick to shoot down the reports. Of course, it would not be the first time a personnel official has denied a player’s availability before subsequently moving them. Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press analyzes the decision from all angles to make the case in favor and against keeping Stafford.
  • Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports argues that the Buccaneers need to find a way to keep free-agent quarterback Jameis Winston. Winston, of course, became just the second quarterback in NFL history to throw for at least 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions (joining Vinny Testaverde). There’s no denying that Winston has had his flashes on the field, but a history of off-field issues and a historic propensity for turnovers make the decision far from straight forward.

Latest On Saints, Taysom Hill

The Taysom Hill momentum has continued to the point Sean Payton expects his gadget quarterback to receive an offer sheet, perhaps even if the Saints apply a first-round RFA tender to Hill.

Drew Brees has not confirmed he will return yet, but signs point to the league’s all-time passing kingpin coming back for his age-41 season. The Saints, assuming they can retain Hill, would have a chance to prepare for a potential Brees-to-Hill transition plan. If the Saints tender Hill as a first-rounder and do not match an offer sheet, they would receive that team’s 2020 first-round pick.

Yeah, I think someone is going to make him an offer,” Payton said during an appearance on The Peter King Podcast (via NBC Sports). “But the first thing the fan has to understand is … if we tender Taysom as a one, the team that makes the offer on him and signs him to an offer understands they’re going to give up a first-round pick if we don’t match. That’s easier to do if you’re pick 22, 23, 24, 25. We might very well see it if it’s a team in the second half of the [first round].”

Even being tendered at the first-round level would represent a remarkable rise for Hill, a 29-year-old ex-UDFA with 13 career regular-season pass attempts. Hill, however, has proven immensely valuable for New Orleans. He’s frequently taken snaps and either logged carries or given handoffs to Saints running backs in what’s been a more complex New Orleans ground game. Hill also caught six touchdown passes this past season.

Despite only entering his fourth season, the BYU alum will turn 30 before Week 1. He believes he has franchise-quarterback talent and wants to play for a team that categorizes him as such.

I definitely view myself as a franchise quarterback,” Hill said, via the Associated Press’ Rob Maadi (audio link). “I think as you look at the other questions — is it New Orleans? Is it somewhere else? — as you go into free agency, this is the time that you start to find out how people view you.

… I think as you get to free agency there’s no denying that I love my time in New Orleans. I love coach Payton; I love [OC] Pete Carmichael. Do I want to leave? The fact of the matter is, no, I don’t. But as you look at free agency, you have to find the right opportunity for you. You have to find the situation to take care of your family. I want to play quarterback in this league, and if New Orleans doesn’t view me that way, then I have to leave.”

A first-round tender will likely bump Hill’s salary north of $5MM next season. Payton has said it is unrealistic to bring back Brees, Hill and Teddy Bridgewater for next season. Given all that’s come out of New Orleans early this offsason, Hill is probably the best bet to be Brees’ backup in 2020 — if the 19-year veteran returns. Hill is due to be an unrestricted free agent in 2021.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Saints’ QB Situation

The Saints may have a long-term plan that includes a Drew Brees-to-Taysom Hill baton pass. This may leave Teddy Bridgewater out of the equation.

Bridgewater turned down a chance to become the Dolphins starter last year, instead re-signing with the Saints on a one-year deal worth $7.25MM. The former first-round pick again is free agency-bound, but Sean Payton does not appear to envision another year with the Brees-Bridgewater-Hill troika together. The 14-year Saints coach said it is “unrealistic” to bring all three back, per Mike Triplett of ESPN.com (on Twitter).

Although Bridgewater helped the Saints to a 5-0 mark as a starter while Brees recovered from injury, the 27-year-old passer may be closer to one of the free agency dominoes than set for another year as Brees’ backup. The priority appears to be Hill, who is a restricted free agent.

If Brees comes back to start a possible multiyear transition to Hill, the Saints are expected to place a first-round RFA tender on the latter, Jeremy Fowler and Dan Graziano of ESPN note. The 2019 first-round tender price was $4.4MM.

It would represent a remarkable rise for the ex-UDFA to receive the rare first-round tender, and it may remain a slight stretch to envision Hill becoming a surefire quarterback option. The unique passing-rushing-receiving weapon has only thrown 13 career passes. The prospect of a 2021 Brees-to-Hill transition makes more sense because sources informed Fowler and Graziano that Hill may not be ready to handle being New Orleans’ starter in 2020. This would shift the focus to Brees, whose retirement talk is believed to be genuine.

A BYU alum, Hill will turn 30 before Week 1 of next season. Brees recently turned 41. Brees has said he is not going anywhere else; the future first-ballot Hall of Famer will play for the Saints in 2020 or retire.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Saints’ Drew Brees

Saints quarterback Drew Brees says he isn’t bothered by the prospect of ceding snaps to Taysom Hill (Twitter link via Chris Simms of PFT). Brees is still deciding whether he’ll return for another season, but a larger role for Hill won’t dissuade him from playing.

[RELATED: Saints Planning Transition To Taysom Hill In 2021]

If I’m back, and Taysom’s along side me, call the plays that puts us in the best position to win. If that means Taysom Hill is taking 30 snaps a game, 25 snaps a game, so be it. I’m all for that,” Brees said.

The Saints would like to have Brees back for a bridge year, allowing them to make a smooth handoff to Hill for 2021 and beyond. Brees, 41, is on board with that plan, if he decides to play.

Brees, of course, has nothing left to prove in the NFL and has already earned more money than he could ever hope to spend. Over the next month or so, he’ll weigh his options, which include a potential career in broadcasting.

Brees completed a league-high 74.3% of his passes in 2019, marking his third straight year at the top of the category. In his injury-shortened eleven-game campaign, he threw for 2,979 yards with 27 touchdowns against just four interceptions. In the regular season finale against the Colts, Brees connected on 29 of 30 passes and set the NFL’s new record for touchdown throws.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Saints QB Drew Brees

Saints quarterback Drew Brees is giving serious thought to retirement, PFT’s Mike Florio hears. The Saints, obviously, want the future Hall of Famer to return, but a source tells PFT that the club wants him back for what would essentially amount to a bridge year. In 2021, they envision Taysom Hill taking over as the team’s starter. 

If Brees returns for a 15th season, he’d be the starter, but he’d also yield some spotlight and snaps to Hill. That plan may or may not suit Brees, who could walk away from the game with his fortune and still earn plenty more off the field, perhaps as a TV analyst.

Meanwhile, the Saints have some offseason work to do when it comes to Hill and Teddy Bridgewater. Hill will be a restricted free agent in March and another club could conceivably match their offer sheet, even at the first-round level. Bridgewater, who is beloved in New Orleans and all around the NFL, could be lured away by an opportunity to start with a contract befitting of a QB1.

As for Brees, he’s indicated that he’ll take a month to or so to weigh his options. If he does return, Brees says he’ll only suit up for the Saints.

Brees, 41, completed a league-high 74.3% of his passes in 2019, marking his third straight year at the top of the category. In his injury-shortened eleven-game campaign, he tallied 2,979 yards with 27 touchdowns against just four interceptions. The wild card round against the Vikings didn’t go as planned, but Brees did cap off the regular season in remarkable fashion by completing 29 of 30 passes against the Colts and setting the NFL’s new record for touchdown throws.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Drew Brees

If Drew Brees decides to play in 2020, it will only be for the Saints. However, it’s still unclear whether he will be returning for his age-41 season.

The New Orleans legend will wait about a month before making that decision, as Amie Just of NOLA.com writes.

“I’m really waiting until football is totally done,” Brees said on Saturday. “Obviously being [at the Pro Bowl], I’m just very much focused on my family and this opportunity to be be around the guys, playing the game. Then, I’ll kind of lay low for a little bit, get away and then assess. I kind of have a process in mind. And I’ll give it a month or so.”

The Saints will obviously give their future Hall-of-Famer all the time he wants, but as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk points out, the process could be somewhat complicated by the presence of Taysom Hill, a restricted free agent. The Saints love what Hill brings to the field and do not want another club poaching him by giving him an offer that New Orleans cannot match because of its financial commitment to Brees. Of course, that assumes that another team views the 29-year-old Hill as a starting-caliber QB, which is not a given; Hill has thrown just 13 passes in his professional career.

If Brees does decide to hang up the cleats, the Saints could look to Hill as a replacement, or they may choose to re-sign Teddy Bridgewater, who played well in Brees’ injury-related absence in 2019. There are also an unusually high number of potentially intriguing free agent and trade options this year, so the sooner Brees makes up his mind, the happier New Orleans will be.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Pack, Ravens, Saints, Conley

Brian Gutekunst remains confident the Packers will sign Aaron Rodgers to an extension this offseason, telling Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk he expects an agreement “soon.” The first-year GM said both sides continue to work on a pact. Although, the negotiations likely just saw the price rise since Matt Ryan‘s five-year, $150MM extension raised the ceiling for quarterback contracts. However, Gutekunst told Florio before Ryan’s Falcons agreement was finalized that both the Packers and Rodgers may be waiting to see if any other quarterback deals are completed this offseason. With Kirk Cousins signed and Ryan now locked up through 2023, Rodgers’ deal is likely next on the QB docket. Although, it’s still possible the Patriots and Tom Brady revise the reigning MVP’s contract. With two years remaining on Rodgers’ deal, Florio estimates the final result will be a contract closer to Ryan’s through-2023 deal than Cousins’ three-year accord. He also expects Rodgers’ new deal to further raise the quarterback ceiling, one that’s climbed considerably since Derek Carr became the league’s first $25MM-AAV player less than a year ago.

Here’s the latest from around the league:

  • Two rookies the Ravens may well have hoped to land went to AFC North rivals. Jeff Zreibec of the Baltimore Sun notes the Ravens were eyeing Miami running back Mark Walton with their fourth-round pick, but the Bengals ended up selecting him six spots before Baltimore’s next pick — one that went to Alabama cornerback Anthony Averett. The other player they may well have wanted ended up in Pittsburgh. Zreibec adds the Ravens most likely sought James Washington, who went to the Steelers late in the second round. Eric DeCosta said a few times during this draft he became “angrier than usual” because of a player going off the board just prior to a Ravens selection window, and Zreibec assumes the Oklahoma State wide receiver was the source of one of these agitation bouts.
  • Brandon Coleman‘s Saints contract is worth a maximum of $1MM, Larry Holder of NOLA.com reports. Coleman re-signed with New Orleans after not being tendered as a restricted free agent. Had the Saints applied the low-end tender to Coleman, he would have made $1.9MM this season. After the Saints selected Tre’Quan Smith in the third round, Coleman and return specialist Tommylee Lewis could be battling for a roster spot, Nick Underhill of The Advocate writes.
  • On the subject of Saints position battles, Underhill notes the Saints are high enough on Taysom Hill that they might be ready to cut Tom Savage and carry just two quarterbacks if Hill beats him out for the backup job. They also brought in J.T. Barrett this month. Hill served as the Saints’ third-string quarterback last season behind Drew Brees and Chase Daniel. It would cost the Saints just $100K if they released Savage.
  • Gareon Conley has yet to receive full clearance to return to Raiders workouts, but Jon Gruden said that appears imminent, per Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area. Conley underwent shin surgery last year after missing almost his entire rookie season. Gruden indicated the 2017 first-round pick is running with teammates and participating in walkthroughs but hasn’t been given a full green light yet.
  • Both of Eric Berry‘s twin younger brothers are with teams this weekend. One will have a chance to join the All-Pro safety with the Chiefs. Elliott Berry is in Kansas City working as a tryout player, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Meanwhile, Evan Berry signed with the Browns as a UDFA on Friday. Both of twins played at Tennessee, as Eric did.

NFC Notes: Bulaga, Foles, Cowboys

Given that the Packers could save nearly $5MM by releasing RT Bryan Bulaga, and given Bulaga’s recent injury history, there was some chatter that Green Bay could part ways with the ninth-year pro (especially since Bulaga is not even guaranteed to be ready for the start of the 2018 season after tearing his ACL on November 6). But we recently heard that Bulaga remains in the team’s 2018 plans, and head coach Mike McCarthy said Bulaga’s rehab is ahead of schedule (per Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com). Therefore, it certainly sounds as if Bulaga will be back for the fourth year of the five-year pact he signed prior to the 2015 season.

  • In a series of tweets, Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com passes along more details on Nick Foles‘ reworked deal. Foles’ cap number is now $9.6MM, fourth-highest on the Eagles, but if the team were to trade him after June 1, it would save $7MM in cap space, more than it would have saved prior to the restructure. As such, the restructure looks like a win-win in that Foles gets more money and incentives and it’s easier for the Eagles to deal him if someone comes along with a great offer. Shorr-Parks, though, still does not expect Foles to be traded.
  • The Cowboys selected Western Kentucky quarterback Mike White in the fifth round of this year’s draft, which marked just the sixth time Dallas has drafted a QB since Jerry Jones purchased the franchise in 1989. White is expected to compete with Cooper Rush for the backup job, though Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News writes that executive vice president Stephen Jones is open to carrying three signal-callers in 2018.
  • Per Mike Triplett of ESPN.com (via Twitter), Saints head coach Sean Payton does not know if the team will bring in a fourth QB to compete with Tom Savage and Taysom Hill. Payton said the Saints considered drafting a signal-caller this weekend, but they are anxious to see what Savage and Hill can do.
  • Brady Henderson of ESPN.com says the Seahawks see Shaquem Griffin, whom they selected in the fifth round of this weekend’s draft, as a weak-side LB at the next level, and he also reports that Seattle viewed fourth-round pick Will Dissly as the best blocking tight end in the class (Twitter links).
  • The Lions apparently disappointed at least a couple of teams in this weekend’s draft. Per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (via Twitter), Detroit selected Auburn RB Kerryon Johnson one pick before the Redskins were prepared to take him, and the Panthers were going to take UL-Lafayette CB Tracy Walker with the No. 85 overall pick, but the Lions nabbed him with their No. 82 pick.