SALT LAKE CITY — Taysom Hill is getting his first taste of NFL free agency.
Over the next few days, Hill’s future NFL options should play out, as the former BYU quarterback goes through the process of being a restricted free agent with the New Orleans Saints. This offseason, Hill has expressed the desire to be a franchise quarterback at the NFL level while also showing excitement at the prospect of learning under All-Pro starter Drew Brees for another year in New Orleans.
“I definitely view myself as a franchise quarterback,” Hill told Associated Press writer Rob Maaddi in February. “… As you go into free agency, this is the time you start to find out how people view you.”
This year could provide him the opportunity to back up that statement, while the most likely scenario is he remains in New Orleans to back up Brees.
Taysom Hill by the numbers
What we know
Hill becomes a restricted free agent at 2 p.m. MST Wednesday, when the new NFL league year begins, unless New Orleans reaches a contract with him before then.
On Monday, Charles Robinson of Yahoo reported that the Saints officially placed a first-round tender on Hill, which is projected to be worth $4.64 million, per Over the Cap. That means if another team signed away Hill, New Orleans would receive a first-round draft pick in return. The Saints, though, would have the opportunity to match any offer sheet Hill receives to retain him.
His previous contract
Hill’s previous contract with the Saints ran three years and netted him $1.67 million, including $645,000 in base salary last year, per Spotrac.
From a financial standpoint
If Hill ultimately makes somewhere in the $4.64 million tender range next year, that’s around the same range as a few reported deals from around the league so far in the NFL’s legal “tampering” period that started Monday. That includes contracts for A.J. McCarron (one year, $4 million with Houston, per Houston Chronicle), Chase Daniel (three years, $13.05 million with Detroit, per ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter), and Case Keenum (three years, $18 million with Cleveland, per Schefter).
McCarron, who has four career starts in six NFL seasons, will back up Texans starter Deshaun Watson for a second straight year. Daniel joins the Lions as a 10-year journeyman who’s played for four different teams and started three games in the past two years; he’ll back up longtime Detroit starter Matthew Stafford. Keenum will back up starter Baker Mayfield with the Browns. He’s started eight or more games for four different teams over the past four years, most recently with Washington.
Hill has completed 6 of 13 passes for 119 yards, no touchdowns and one interception during his three NFL seasons, while completing 1 of 2 passes for 50 yards in the postseason in that stretch. He’s never started a regular-season game and is more known for his rushing ability — 64 career carries for 352 yards and three touchdowns — and became a receiving threat for New Orleans last year, when he had 19 receptions for 234 yards and six touchdowns.
Age, and why it matters
Hill, who is headed into his fourth NFL season, will turn 30 in August. Of the NFL quarterbacks who started the majority of games for their respective teams during the 2019 season, 20 are younger than Hill — that doesn’t count Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger, who is 38 but missed most of last year with an elbow injury.
Here’s the 12 starters from last year who are older than Hill: Atlanta’s Matt Ryan (34), Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton (32), Stafford (32), Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers (36), Los Angeles Chargers’ Philip Rivers (38), Miami’s Ryan Fitzpatrick (37), Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins (31), New England’s Tom Brady (42), Brees (41), Seattle’s Russell Wilson (31), Tennessee’s Ryan Tannehill (31) and Washington’s Keenum (32).
Hill is also just over a year younger than Cam Newton, the former No. 1 draft pick in 2011, three-time Pro Bowler and longtime Panthers quarterback who Carolina “gave permission” to seek a trade Tuesday.
The Saints’ quarterback situation
Going into the offseason, New Orleans was set to have all three of its quarterbacks go into free agency, Hill as a restricted free agent and Brees and backup Teddy Bridgewater as unrestricted free agents.
In February, the 41-year-old Brees, who has played in New Orleans for 14 seasons, announced he was returning for a 20th NFL season. “Having had three years behind him, I really think it’s been the best thing for my career and if it turns out I have another year to learn from him, it’s only going to make me that much better,” Hill told Schefter last month.
On Tuesday, Brees reportedly agreed to a two-year contract worth $50 million with the Saints, per ESPN. By getting the deal finalized before the start of the new league year Wednesday, the Saints are able to avoid a $21.3 million salary-cap charge in “dead money” from his previous two-year deal with New Orleans, ESPN reported.
Also on Tuesday, Bridgewater’s future came into focus, when Schefter reported he will sign a three-year, $63 million deal with Carolina. With Bridgewater headed to the Panthers, Hill could become the backup in New Orleans, unless the Saints bring in another veteran QB. Last year when Brees missed five games with a thumb injury, Bridgewater started in his place and put up a perfect 5-0 record, while Hill served as backup and played limited snaps in his usual offensive and special teams role as a utility player.
Big-name quarterback deals
Hill’s name won’t start popping up in the NFL free-agency world likely until the majority of big names come off the board, and there are plenty of them in this free agency class. There’s already been a lot of quarterback free-agency action.
The biggest name is Brady, who’s set to become an unrestricted free agent and announced Tuesday morning via social media he won’t return to New England after 20 seasons — and six Super Bowl rings — with the Patriots. By late Tuesday afternoon, Brady had agreed in principle to a contract worth $30 million per year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport reported.
Tannehill agreed to a four-year, $118 million extension with the Titans on Sunday, per ESPN, while Dallas placed the exclusive franchise tag, worth about $33 million, on Dak Prescott on Monday. Also on Tuesday, longtime Chargers starter Rivers agreed to a one-year, $25 million deal with Indianapolis, per Rapoport.
Quarterback needy teams
What teams could be interested in extending an offer sheet to Hill at this point? Among the most quarterback needy teams right now are the Patriots and Chargers.
With all the quarterback deals thus far, the biggest remaining name in free agency is Tampa Bay’s Jameis Winston. He is 26, was the first pick overall by the Buccaneers in the 2015 draft and made the Pro Bowl as a rookie. He’s also coming off a season where he threw 33 touchdowns for Tampa Bay but also had 30 interceptions.
Would Hill be worth an offer sheet for New England? The Patriots, without Brady, have second-year Jarrett Stidham and fifth-year Cody Kessler on the roster. Kessler has 12 career starts, including eight as a rookie in Cleveland, but it would make sense for New England to add a veteran during free agency, especially if they land Hill. While Hill’s ability to play multiple positions could be enticing to Patriots coach Bill Belichick, they would likely need to add Hill and an experienced veteran to feel truly comfortable at the position.
What about the Chargers, then? Los Angeles has a longtime veteran in Tyrod Taylor coming back, as well as second-year man Easton Stick, who was earning comparisons to Hill last year as a utility player at the QB position. In some ways, Hill would seem to be a better fit here than in New England, with Taylor already on the roster with a base salary of $5 million next season, per Spotrac. The Chargers, though, could go for a quarterback of the future in the 2020 NFL draft, as they have the sixth overall pick. Plus, the sixth pick is Los Angeles’ lone first-round pick, and with Hill’s reported first-round tender, the No. 6 pick is a steep price to pay for Hill’s services.