The New Orleans Saints and Taysom Hill agreed on a contract extension last week that spawned a ton of attention and conversation. Among the many talking points, the uniqueness of the deal itself was worth discussion. A hybrid contract that paid Hill one figure to maintain his current role and another if he became the Saints’ starting quarterback.
The four-year extension keeps Hill in New Orleans through the 2025 season, at least on paper, along with a voidable 2026 year which will soon be used as the fifth year of a sure-to-be restructured $9M roster bonus.
The contract is a 4-year $40M contract that can become up to a $95M contract if Hill were to become the starting quarterback in New Orleans.
New Orleans’ QB Taysom Hill signed a unique four-year, hybrid-type of contract extension that could be worth anywhere between $40 million and $95 million, depending on the position he plays, and includes $22.5 million guaranteed, sources tell ESPN.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 22, 2021
But by what definition does he become the “starting quarterback?” Well, the Saints built a very unique deal which includes several incentives and escalators that one can only earn if playing more than the majority of snaps at the position. For instance, most of the bumps he can earn on his deal can only be done if he plays more than 70% of snaps and throws at least 224 passes in a given season.
The fact of the matter is that Taysom very likely won’t earn a considerable amount of his potential $95M maximum.
In order to understand why, let’s talk about the difference between an incentive and an escalator.
An incentive is usually earned once a player hits a certain threshold as noted in their contracts.
Think back to the 2020 season when Emmanuel Sanders celebrated his eighth catch against the Carolina Panthers in Week 17. That was his 60th catch of the season, which earned him a $500,000 incentive bonus.
Once Sanders caught that third down pass, he was guaranteed the half-million dollar payout which was cut to him that season.
Escalators on the other hand act as raises the following season and are not often guaranteed. That means a player could hit the threshold noted in their deal in 2021, and may possibly see it pay out in 2022. That’s assuming he’s still on the team the following year.
This is important because Taysom’s contract includes both incentives and escalators and he’s quickly through his guaranteed money on this contract. Aside from prorates like his signing bonus and that eventually restructured roster bonus, the $22.5M he was guaranteed on this deal are all met by 2023. Though his 2023 salary is guaranteed for injury and becomes fully guaranteed in March of 2022.
Hill currently has $1M of incentives he could earn this season (though he most certainly will not), $18M he can earn from 2022-2025, and a whopping $36M that are tied up in escalators. Those escalators will have to be earned in 2022-2024 in order to pay out the following season. 2022 thresholds would apply to 2023’s payouts and so on.
So, what would Taysom Hill have to do in order to earn his $95M?
The finite details can be found in pieces from Ian Rapoport’s piece and PFT. Though neither are consistent with one another and not everything adds up individually either. But with a combination of the two frameworks reported and some fixes along the way, we can get an idea of what it would take.
To start, let’s highlight that Hill would have to play the next four seasons as the starting quarterback for the New Orleans Saints and play his contract completely out with no adjustments.
Playing out a contract without an early departure by way of release or otherwise and having any terms change by means of restructure, further extensions, pay cuts, etc. are both very, very rare assurances in the NFL. But that’s what Hill would have to do in order for him to earn every penny of this deal.
In 2022-2025, there is a total of $18M that can be earned by way of incentives (the guaranteed bonuses). Passing yardage, passing touchdowns, completion percentage, and passer rating (with a minimum 224 attempts) all have their thresholds, some with multiple layers.
To maximize these incentives, Hill would have to throw 146/224 (65.18%), 4,000 passing yards, 30 touchdowns, and even an above average amount of interceptions that would keep him above a 90 passer rating.
That stat line would earn Hill $4.5M per year in bonuses that’d pay out the season in which they’re earned.
Payout earned: $40M contract + $18M in incentives = $58M
Now come the escalators. Which are vastly different from the previous thresholds not just because there’s question around whether or not they’d be paid out, earning process, and the other elements discussed earlier. But also, because they rely a lot more on team success than just individual success.
For example; individually Hill will have to take at least 70% of offensive snaps and attempt at least 224 passes in 2022, 2023, and 2024 in order to be eligible for the bonuses. However, regular season games won, playoff games won, team scoring ranking, team total offensive yardage ranking (both which are impacted by the run game and the success of the other 31 NFL teams), conference championship appearances, Super Bowl appearances, and Pro Bowl selections are all a part of this list of possible bonuses.
Hill also has escalators attached to his production in run game like rushing yardage and rushing touchdowns. But remember, he has to play 70% of offensive snaps and throw at least 224 passing attempts in order to be eligible for those. Meaning that even though there’s a world in which he rushes for, let’s say, six touchdowns in a season in his usual offensive weapon role. Without those first two pieces, he would not be eligible for the $250,000 per year bonus attached to his contract.
This means that in order for Hill to qualify for all $36M of escalators he would have to finish each 2022-2024 with: 70% of regular season offensive snaps, 224 passing attempts, 600 rushing yards, 10 rushing touchdowns and a Pro Bowl selection. Additionally, the team would have to finish the season with a 13-4 record, as Super Bowl Champions, with top 10 scoring offense and finish top 10 in total offense.
Payout earned: $40M contract + $36M in 2023-2025 escalator payouts = $76M
In all, the only way for Taysom to see the most possible of his contract is if the following happened in each 2022, 2023, and 2024.
- Taysom appears for 70% of offensive snaps.
- He Throw 146/224 for 4,000+ passing yards and 30+ passing touchdowns while rushing for at least 600 yards and 10 scores
- The Saints will need to be at least 13-4 and a top-10 scoring offense and top-10 offense in total yardage in the regular season.
- Hill plays 50% of postseason snaps at QB with at least 10 passing attempts and 10 passing yards.
- He’ll have to be a Super Bowl winning Pro Bowler.
- Then, he’ll have to play the 2025 season as the Saints starting QB long enough to earn the escalators earned in 2024. At 35 years old.
Payout earned: $40M contract + $18M in incentives + $36M in escalator payouts = $94M
$94M? Isn’t the contract for $95M? Yes, it is. That missing million comes down to 2021. Remember the $1M in incentives mentioned earlier that Hill is very unlikely to earn this season? That counts into the $95M. In order to earn that bonus, Hill would have to finish this season with:
70% of offensive snaps played, 146/224 passing for 3,250 yards and 25 touchdowns with a 90 passer rating, 600 rushing yards, 50% of postseason snaps played with a Super Bowl appearance and either an Offensive Player of the Year or MVP award.
With 11 games down already this season, it’s a non-starter to believe that any of those incentives will be reached especially considering that many of them are tied to one another.
Taysom Hill had 8 rushing TDs in 2020. Accounted for 38 Saints 1st Downs also. 21 TDs in 3 years (14 rush, 7 receiving) with 4 more passing last year.— John Hendrix (@JohnJHendrix) November 22, 2021
Now, it might be easy to look at this contract and assume it’s a bad one for the player. The New Orleans Saints have proven time and time again that they’ll put players in position to earn those big extra payouts.
But what this contract does not do is promise anything to Hill and his team in regards to being the Saints’ quarterback of the future. It promises him that there’s a role for him in the Big Easy for at least the next two years and that if the opportunity is right, he’ll earn another shot to compete for the quarterback role.
But the Saints have artfully crafted a contract that keeps them from panic-signing someone at the highest market price next offseason if time begins to dwindle, and locks in a structure by which a Taysom Hill quarterback season pays out on a scale contingent upon performance as opposed to simply the position designation.
What do you think of the new deal for Taysom? Make sure you follow Canal Street Chronicles on Twitter at @SaintsCSC , “Like” us on Facebook at Canal Street Chronicles, and make sure you’re subscribed to our new YouTube channel. As always, you can follow me on Twitter @RossJacksonNOLA and subscribe to my daily Saints podcast, Locked On Saints and checkout the Locked On Saints YouTube channel.