It’s franchise quarterback or bust for Saints utility player Taysom Hill.
With longtime starter Drew Brees’ future up in the air, the 29-year-old BYU product is prepared to leave New Orleans if the team does not share his vision.
“I definitely view myself as a franchise quarterback,” Hill told the Associated Press’ Rob Maaddi ahead of the Super Bowl. “I think as you look at, you know, 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. We haven’t gotten into free agency long enough to really know how guys view me and we’ll just handle it as it comes.”
After 18 seasons in the league, the 41-year old Brees is “genuinely and seriously considering retirement,” according to Pro Football Talk. He also told NFL Networks’ Jane Slater ahead of the Pro Bowl, “It’s not a given that I’m coming back every year, but when that time comes, I’ll always be a Saint.”
“I don’t know [if Brees is coming back],” Hill told Maaddi. “We’ll see, I’ll tell you as one of Drew’s biggest fans, I hope he comes back. I would love to play with him again and he’s become one of my best friends and like a brother to me and I hope to see him again.”
The much-hyped Hill has been a popular topic since sparking excitement at the end of the season by showcasing versatility at multiple positions.
“[The Saints] do have their quarterback of the future on the roster, too — that quarterback will be Taysom Hill,” Fox’s Jay Glazer said on “The Herd” on Jan. 27. “Taysom, they believe, is a franchise quarterback, and especially you’ve seen what Lamar Jackson has been able to do, so they think they have him here.”
On Monday, Pro Football Talk’s Twitter account ignited the conversation once again by claiming Hill “is a future star in the NFL” and “was the best player on the field for either team in the Saints-Vikings playoff game. … The biggest question is can he stay healthy?”
It’s a bold assertion in light of a meager sample size. According to ESPN’s Mike Clay, head coach Sean Payton has used him on 466 career snaps, of which just 24% were taken at quarterback. Hill has attempted 15 passes in those 110 quarterback snaps, completing 7 of 15 for 169 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception. The remaining 356 snaps were distributed as follows: 31% at tight end, 22% from the slot, 15% as an outside receiver and 8% at running back.
“Even if we grant the premise that Taysom Hill was the ‘Best player on the field’ in that game, it was one game in a role he would never be used in as a starting QB,” CBS Sports’ Chris Towers quote-tweeted. “He’s gonna be 30 this year, and we have zero evidence he can be an effective passer.”
Hill, who indeed turns 30 in August, was claimed off waivers by the Saints shortly after being signed by the Green Bay Packers in 2017 as an undrafted free agent. The restricted free agent earned $645,000 in 2019 and coach Payton thinks Hill would be a hot commodity on the free agency market.
“Yeah, I think someone is going to make him an offer,” he said on the Peter King podcast Monday.
Hill is a restricted free agent and the Saints would have the opportunity to match any offer, but if Brees returns, it could be challenging to pay them both starting-quarterback money.
“Do I want to leave? The fact of the matter is, no, I don’t,” Hill said. “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, I have to leave, and that’s really where we’re at.”
The Saints also have the option to re-sign Teddy Bridgewater, who has been with the team since 2018 and is set to become a free agent come March. The talented 27-year old filled in for Brees, who suffered a thumb injury on his throwing hand on Sept. 15 against the Rams and won all five games. He served as the Vikings’ starter before sustaining a serious knee injury during the 2016 preseason that kept him sidelined for 19 months.