Almost a month ago on March 18, the Saints placed a first-round tender on restricted free agent quarterback Taysom Hill. The one-year, fully-guaranteed contract valued at around $4.6 million has yet to be signed by Hill, which allows the mutli-tool player to continue fielding offers from other teams around the league.
There’s been no news on whether or not Hill is attracting interest from teams other than the Saints, and it’s still unknown how much the recent COVID-19 pandemic has affected players who are currently free agents.
When free agency first opened, there were a number of high priced signings, but after the initial splurge, this has been one of the more quiet free agency periods. Teams are probably being much more measured with their accounting and the uncertainty of next season’s viability has most likely changed the way teams are choosing to build their rosters during the offseason.
There are a variety of reasons why Hill remains unsigned. For one, he really wants to play quarterback and not just be used as a jack of a trades special teams ace.
Back in February, Hill told Rob Maaddi of the Associated Press, “I definitely view myself as a franchise quarterback. 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. We haven’t gotten into free agency long enough to really know how these guys view me and we’ll just handle it as it comes.”
The lack of interest from around the league could have more to due with COVID-19 uncertainty rather than a lack of faith in Hill’s abilities to be a starting quarterback, but nevertheless, it appears Hill hasn’t been approached by another team to sign with them.
Hill’s seemingly cold market could also be attributed to his first-round tender. Teams are probably less likely to want to part with a first-round draft pick AND sign Hill to more than $5 million per year; especially during an offseason that still has names available like former franchise QBs Joe Flacco, Jameis Winston, Cam Newton, and semi-proven journeymen like Matt Moore and Josh McCown.
Sean Payton has a long history of building smokescreens, but unless he’s completely lying, the New Orleans head coach seems to agree with Hill that he’s got what it takes to become a franchise quarterback. Given Hill’s lack of suitors, it may behoove him to stick with the one coach who seemingly does believe in him.
“First and foremost, we still view him as a quarterback. We spent a lot of time this offseason discussing our vision for him this season at quarterback,” Payton said of Hill. “I think Taysom sees himself as being a starting quarterback in this league, and we do too.”
It also has to go a long way with Hill to see that starting quarterback Drew Brees has admitted being comfortable with sharing more snaps with Hill, if that’s what it takes to win.
Drew Brees just now on @PFT_Live: "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."@ProFootballTalk #Saints #WhoDat— Chris Simms (@CSimmsQB) January 31, 2020
Perhaps Hill and the Saints are still trying to work out a longer term contract extension, but there are a couple reasons why that may not be in the cards right now either.
Brees just signed a two year extension, which could actually be a one year deal if he chooses to retire after this season, but as we’ve experienced, Brees likes to make his decisions on an annual basis.
Hill might not be keen on waiting more than another year to take the reigns of this offense, and signing an extension wouldn’t give him much leverage, especially if Brees decides to stay more than one year.
The other important factor is money. New Orleans is listed with just over $4 million in current salary cap space, and most of that will be needed to sign their impending draft class. After making important investments across the roster with other free agents like Emmanuel Sanders, David Onyemata, Andrus Peat, Malcolm Jenkins, and P.J. Williams, the Saints don’t have much more cap space to work with.
We shouldn’t expect Hill to get any attention from the league until after the draft when teams will have a better idea of how their final rosters will look. Unfortunately for Hill, he only has until April 17 to either sign his tender or work out an extension. With the draft only a week later, Hill’s leverage remains non-existent.
With only four days remaining until the deadline for restricted free agents to sign their tenders, it looks like we should have more clarity on Hill’s level of team buy-in very soon.