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Taysom Hill sends clear message as he heads into free agency: ‘I definitely view myself as a franchise quarterback’

New Orleans Saints quarterback Taysom Hill looks to pass during the second half of a preseason NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers Sunday, Aug. 18, 2019, in Carson, Calif.
Kelvin Kuo, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Taysom Hill is straightforward about what he envisions himself as, with NFL free agency opening next month and the former BYU quarterback headed into his first venture as a restricted free agent.

“I definitely view myself as a franchise quarterback,” Hill, who recently completed his third season with the New Orleans Saints, told Associated Press writer Rob Maaddi in a segment posted on Twitter Monday. “... As you go into free agency, this is the time you start to find out how people view you. We haven’t gotten far enough into free agency to know how these guys view me and we’ll just handle it as it comes.”

Hill has become a jack-of-all-trades for the Saints under head coach Sean Payton, playing several different positions on offense while also serving as a special teams ace. During the 2019 season, Hill — who’s been long been known for his dual-threat QB abilities — became more involved in the passing game, catching 19 passes for 234 yards and six touchdowns.

During the Saints’ loss to the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC wild-card playoff round, Hill rushed for a team-high 50 yards on four carries and caught two passes for 25 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown reception, while also completing his longest pass as a pro, a 50-yarder that set up a New Orleans touchdown on the next play.

Hill told Maaddi during the interview, which was conducted during Super Bowl week, he would prefer not to leave New Orleans, where all three of its quarterbacks are headed into free agency this offseason. Both All-Pro starter Drew Brees and Teddy Bridgewater are unrestricted free agents, and there is uncertainty about whether Brees, who is 41, will ultimately retire.

“This last season has been so much fun for me, and we have such a great locker room. You talk about being able to play with a guy and be a part of Drew Brees and all the records he’s breaking. And then coach Payton is notorious for always having things to switch it up that just makes it so much fun,” Hill told Maaddi.

Hill said he didn’t have any insight into whether Brees will retire or return for another season, calling the veteran quarterback “one of my best friends and like a brother to me.”

NFL free agency opens March 18. By 2 p.m. MST that day, clubs must submit qualifying offers to their restricted free agents with expiring contracts to retain a right of first refusal/compensation. The deadline for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets is April 17, and it’s unclear what kind of market Hill will attract in free agency.

Payton told The Peter King Podcast recently he believes another team will extend an offer sheet to the restricted free agent Hill.

“But the first thing the fan has to understand is ... if we tender Taysom as a one (meaning the Saints put a first-round tag on him), the team that makes the offer on him and signs him to an offer understands they’re going to give up a first-round pick if we don’t match,” Payton told King. “That’s easier to do if you’re pick 22, 23, 24, 25. We might very well see it if it’s a team in the second half of the (first round).”

King added he believes the Saints will tender Hill with a first-round tag, especially if Brees does retire.

During his three NFL seasons, Hill been able to show off his running ability, rushing for 352 yards and three touchdowns while averaging 5.6 yards per carry as a utility player. He’s much less proven as a pro passer, completing 6 of 13 passes for 119 yards and an interception, as well as 1 of 2 passes for 50 yards in the postseason.

Hill was open about the realities of free agency.

“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,” he told Maaddi.