SALT LAKE CITY — Taysom Hill’s third NFL season came to an abrupt halt Sunday evening when the New Orleans Saints fell to the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC wild-card playoffs.
In the 26-20 overtime loss, the former BYU quarterback who’s turned into a jack of all trades for the Saints had perhaps his most impressive game as a pro, accounting for 125 yards of offense — 50 yards passing, 50 yards rushing and 25 yards receiving.
His 20-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter brought New Orleans within 20-17, and he was instrumental in three straight plays during the Saints’ second-quarter touchdown drive, including a 50-yard pass to Deonte Harris, his longest pass as a pro.
The dual-threat quarterback gained first downs on each of his four carries, including a 28-yard run in the fourth quarter where the 6-foot-2, 221-pounder trucked a defender, then spun free for a carry down to the Minnesota 20-yard line. He played 23 offensive snaps and 27 on special teams against the Vikings and logged multiple snaps at tight end, slot receiver, wide receiver, quarterback and running back for the third straight game, according to Next Gen Stats.
So, what’s next for Hill? He enters the 2020 offseason as a restricted free agent.
This season set the 29-year-old Hill up to see a sizable bump in pay with his next contract. He reportedly made $645,000 in 2019 in the final year of his rookie undrafted free agent contract, per Over the Cap.
During the 2019 season, Hill saw his role as a pass catcher increase — he finished the regular season with 19 catches for 234 yards and six touchdowns. He also completed 3 of 6 passes for 55 yards and had 27 carries for 156 yards and a score as the team’s third-string quarterback. The special teams ace even had another blocked punt.
That all came even as Hill saw his role decrease for five games when starter Drew Brees was out with a right thumb injury. Fellow veteran Teddy Bridgewater assumed the starting role — leading the Saints to a 5-0 record as a starter — and it forced New Orleans to hold back the snaps on Hill, who served as the backup during that stretch.
Yet Hill’s overall numbers didn’t drop drastically because of it. The dual threat only rushed for 40 fewer yards than his numbers from 2018, and he averaged 5.8 yards per carry. Hill’s receiving yards were significantly better than his previous year, and he completed the same number of passes (three) as he did in 2018.
It will be a busy offseason for New Orleans regarding its future at quarterback, with both the veteran starter Brees and backup Bridgewater both unrestricted free agents, in addition to Hill’s restricted free agency.
Brees, a 13-time Pro Bowler, has been with New Orleans since 2006 — leading the team to its only Super Bowl title in 2009 — and earned $22.7 million this year in the final season of a two-year deal, according to Over the Cap. Bridgewater earned $7.25 million on a one-year deal in his second season with the Saints, per Over the Cap.
The 40-year-old Brees sounded like a player ready to make another run at a championship following the Saints’ loss Sunday.
“I’d say that we have incredible culture here and a great foundation built,” he said in his postgame press conference. “We know that there’s a stable group of guys that’ll be here for a long time so then you always spend your offseason finding other pieces, complementary pieces. Whether it be through the draft or free agency, you never know how that’s going to shake out.”
He added, “We win a lot of games and guys play for one another. We love coming to work together here in this locker room.”
It’s that team atmosphere in New Orleans that Hill has thrived in. What he hasn’t had the opportunity to show yet during the regular season, though, is whether he could be a consistently good pro passer. For his career, Hill has completed 6 of 13 passes for 119 yards and an interception, as well as 1 of 2 passes for 50 yards in the postseason.
With Hill being a restricted free agent, could another team make a run at him in free agency? He’s developed a strong rapport with New Orleans coach Sean Payton, who’s been creative in finding ways to get the speedy QB on the field on both offense and special teams, and the most likely scenario would seem he stays put with the Saints.
Then again, other teams may be enticed with what Hill could offer to bolster their offense. His versatility is undeniable, but if he became a starting quarterback somewhere, only his passing and rushing capabilities would determine his fate. Bye-bye (mostly) to skills he’s developed as a blocker, route runner and on special teams.
What Hill’s three years in New Orleans have shown is how flexible he is at learning new things to enhance his game. As a Saint, he’s shown ability to grow in different aspects, whether as a special teamer, as a route runner, etc. Could that ability to learn and adjust at the pro level translate over if he becomes a starting quarterback?
Following the season-ending loss to Minnesota, Hill said he hadn’t thought about what the future holds, but he credited the Saints organization and its positive atmosphere.
“This is one of those organizations that’s had a really good locker room for a long time. I don’t think that’s going to change,” he said.