SALT LAKE CITY — Drew Brees let the world know Tuesday he is ready for a 20th NFL season, announcing his intention to return to the New Orleans Saints in 2020.
“I look forward to the grind and the journey, for the reward at the end will be worth it!!! Love you #WhoDatNation. Let’s make another run at it!” the 41-year-old Brees said via Instagram.
How that impacts Taysom Hill, the former BYU quarterback who’s played behind Brees for the past three seasons in New Orleans, has yet to be determined. Going into the offseason, all three Saints quarterbacks were heading into free agency — Brees and backup Teddy Bridgewater as unrestricted free agents, while Hill is a restricted FA.
“Having had three years behind him, I really think it’s been the best thing for my career and if it turns out I have another year to learn from him, it’s only going to make me that much better,” Hill told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter on Tuesday after the news broke about Brees’ return.
Hill joined Schefter on his podcast for a lengthy conversation about what Brees’ decision may have on Hill next season, and perhaps beyond. “Drew has been a great asset to me and I have so much respect for him,” Hill said.
🏈 Saints QB @T_Hill4 discusses Drew Brees’ return and his free-agent status— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 18, 2020
🏈 @JeffDarlington handicaps the @Titans, @Raiders and @Patriots as the teams with the best chance to land Tom Brady
🏈 DC Defenders QB @CJ1two breaks down his XFL success
The uncertainty for Hill, 29, lies in the fact he’s headed into his first experience with free agency, not knowing what offers may come from other teams and whether the Saints will be able to match those offers. If Hill ends up back in New Orleans, he’ll team up again with Brees — whom Hill says “is like a big brother to me” — and head coach Sean Payton, who’s found creative ways to get the versatile Hill on the field.
“I look at Drew coming back, and maybe I’m not playing quarterback, which is ultimately where I want to have an opportunity to play in the NFL, but there’s still going to be opportunities for me to make plays,” Hill told Schefter, saying he’d continue to just be a sponge and learn how the veteran quarterback operates if he’s back in New Orleans.
“I can tell you, one of the unique experiences for me that most backup quarterbacks don’t get is I’m in the huddle with Drew on game day. I see how he looks at guys in the huddle, I see how he manages that and the leadership that he exhibits on game day in the huddle, and to me that’s invaluable.”
During Super Bowl week, Brees showed excitement in the possibility of teaming with Hill again.
“If I’m back, and Taysom’s alongside 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,” Brees told PFT Live.
While the dual-threat Hill has routinely been able to showcase his rushing abilities during his first three NFL seasons — he’s rushed for 352 yards and three touchdowns while averaging 5.6 yards per carry — while also serving as a special teams ace, Hill showed off some receiving skill last year. He ended the 2019 regular season with 19 passes for 234 yards and six touchdowns.
While the details of Brees’ contract aren’t sorted out, Payton told ESPN’s “First Take” last month it’s likely “unrealistic” and “very difficult” for the Saints financially to bring back Brees, Bridgewater and Hill. With Brees’ return, and with Hill a restricted free agent where New Orleans could match any offer he receives from another team, the likelihood is Bridgewater is gone.
Bridgewater served himself well, though, heading into free agency by leading the Saints to a 5-0 record when he filled in for Brees last year when Brees suffered a thumb injury. In those games, Bridgewater completed 69.7% of his passes and tossed nine touchdowns with just two interceptions while averaging 241 passing yards per game.
NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero discussed what the market for Hill could look like.
“It would stand to reason they’re going to give Hill either a first or second-round tender,” Pelissero said Tuesday, meaning a team would have to give up a first or second-round draft pick to New Orleans if they signed him away. “He’s kinda set up there as potential heir apparent — Sean Payton’s been comparing him for years to Steve Young.
“But if you have, let’s say, a second-round tender, could some other team try to structure an offer sheet for Taysom Hill that would be difficult for the Saints, based on their salary cap limitations, to match, and could that in turn lead to Taysom Hill ending up someplace else next season?”
ESPN reported the last time Brees was a free agent, back in 2018, he signed a two-year, $50 million deal with $27 million guaranteed. Based on inflation, Brees’ contract this time could be worth around $28-30 million per year. If the Saints were to place a first-round tender on Hill, ESPN reported, it would likely cost somewhere between $4.5 million and $5 million. Hill made $645,000 last year in the final season of his three-year rookie free-agent contract, according to Sportac.
Free agency opens for the league March 18, and it could provide Hill — who’s thrown just 15 total passes in three NFL seasons — the chance to become the starting quarterback for another franchise. All in due time, though.
Hill told Schefter he is in no hurry to leave New Orleans, given the type of support he’s felt with the Saints and the fact his vision of becoming a franchise quarterback is something Hill feels the New Orleans staff also has of him.
“I’m in no hurry, but I also think that there’s an important element of being a free agent. You finally have the opportunity to sit down and say, what are my goals? What are the visions for myself?” Hill said. “And then see who shares those same thoughts as you do. Like I said, we’ll go through that process. It’s super early, so I don’t know what’s going to happen — but we’ll go through that process and we’ll see what happens.”
Hill’s name was in the headlines recently when, during an interview with The Associated Press, he said, “I definitely view myself as a franchise quarterback.” In that interview, Hill also discussed the possibility of leaving New Orleans, if the opportunity presented itself to become the franchise quarterback for another organization.
“I still have that same vision, I still have that same goal to have that opportunity to be that guy for a franchise. At the end of the day, I believe in myself,” he told Schefter.