The New Orleans Saints went through several starting quarterbacks during a 2021 season that ultimately ended up short of a playoff appearance, but it appears Taysom Hill’s chances of filling that role are all but over.
“The Taysom Hill experiment at quarterback is over in New Orleans. He won’t be part of that conversation,” The Athletic’s Larry Holder told Sirius XM’s “Fantasy Sports Radio” last week.
Longtime Saints head coach Sean Payton, one of Hill’s biggest believers, left the team this offseason and was replaced by Dennis Allen, New Orleans’ defensive coordinator since 2015.
That’s left uncertainty regarding what kind of role Hill could play moving forward under the new head coach.
Then on Monday, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported that the Saints are bringing back Jameis Winston on a two-year, $28 million deal, with $21 guaranteed. Winston was the team’s Day 1 starter last year before a torn ACL midseason cut his year short.
The #Saints are re-signing QB Jameis Winston to a two-year deal with a base value of $28 million, including $21M guaranteed, sources tell me and @RapSheet.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 21, 2022
So after missing out on Deshaun Watson, New Orleans turns to an old friend at QB.
Behind Winston, New Orleans has Hill, the former BYU dual-threat star, and second-year pro Ian Book, on its active roster and veteran Blake Bortles on a reserve/futures contract.
This all comes after New Orleans was reportedly one of the finalists to trade for Deshaun Watson last week before he ultimately ended up in Cleveland.
So, where does that leave Hill and the Saints one week into free agency?
Hill needs some time to heal
Hill isn’t expected to be ready for the start of the 2022 season, as he suffered a Lisfranc injury to his left foot during the team’s regular-season finale.
Back in January, Payton said there was no timetable for Hill’s return but that he would undergo multiple surgeries for the injury.
Hill has some starting experience
Over the past two seasons, Hill has started nine games for the Saints, filling in when the team’s Day 1 starter went down with an injury — Drew Brees two years ago, and Winston last year.
In those nine games, Hill has gone 7-2 as the starter.
He has thrown for 1,906 yards, eight touchdowns and seven interceptions over the past two seasons, with a 65% completion percentage. He’s also rushed for 831 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Hill’s turnover troubles
Hill’s turnover issues, though, are troubling. That includes fumbling the ball 12 times over the past two seasons.
Last month, Niners Nation’s Akash Anavarathan shared Pro Football Focus’ analysis charting a quarterback’s big-time throw rate vs. turnover-worthy plays.
PFF’s Big-Time Throw Rate vs. Turnover-Worthy plays.— Akash Anavarathan (@akashanav) February 21, 2022
Ideally, you’d want to be in the top left, but definitely not in the bottom right. pic.twitter.com/eJmV4LEMHA
In that analysis, Hill was the worst among NFL quarterbacks, just below San Francisco’s Jimmy Garappolo and Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa.
Hill’s contract has been restructured
One issue widely discussed surrounding Hill has been his sizable contract. In November, he agreed to a four-year contract extension that included a reported $22.5 million in guaranteed money.
Last week, ESPN’s Field Yates reported Hill was one of several Saints who had their contracts restructured to help create $29.2 million in cap space.
This came as news circulated about Watson’s possible interest in joining the New Orleans and was presumably done to create cap space in case the quarterback was traded there.
How does Hill fit into the Saints’ future plans?
For now, there is no definitive answer on how Hill, under contract with New Orleans through 2025, fits in with the team’s plans going forward.
Prior to the report that the Saints were re-signing Winston, who was an unrestricted free agent, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell commented on how Hill could contribute for the team he’s played for since 2017.
“(New Orleans) still has Taysom Hill on the roster — and the 31-year-old’s deal makes it difficult to move on from for a couple of more seasons — so it seems likely that he will at least take some snaps at quarterback when healthy,” Barnwell wrote.
“Given his bruising style of play and middling efficiency as a passer, it’s difficult to imagine that the Saints would give Hill the quarterback job on a full-time basis.”
Barnwell also spoke to why bringing back Winston made sense.
“Winston was quietly impressive in his season as New Orleans’ starter, as he ranked 12th in the league in Total QBR when he went down with a torn ACL in November. He should be ready for training camp. For a Saints team trying to keep as many pieces from its 2021 core as possible, Winston’s familiarity with the offense should be a plus,” Barnwell wrote.