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‘A tight end, receiver, a specialist, a quarterback’: Why Taysom Hill will be Saints’ No. 2 signal-caller and still maintain his utility role in 2020

New Orleans Saints quarterback Taysom Hill looks to pass while pressured by Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Anthony Lanier II during the second half of a preseason NFL game Sunday, Aug. 18, 2019, in Carson, Calif.
Kelvin Kuo, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Taysom Hill is moving up the depth chart in New Orleans.

The former BYU standout will serve as the Saints’ backup quarterback behind 41-year-old All-Pro Drew Brees, coach Sean Payton said Wednesday. That won’t stop him from contributing in other ways on offense and special teams, though.

“Taysom’s earned this opportunity to be our 2. But he’s also earned the opportunity to play and help us win football games as a 1,” Payton told WWL Radio’s Bobby Hebert and Kristian Garic Wednesday. “Whether you call him a tight end, receiver, a specialist, a quarterback, he’s going to play. He’s too good of a football player — he’s one of our better football players.”

The Saints placed a first-round tender on Hill, the only 2020 restricted free agent to receive a first-round tender during the free agency period. That tender is worth $4.461 million, which currently makes Hill’s 2020 salary 33rd among all NFL quarterbacks in average yearly salary, per Over the Cap.

While another team could try to sign Hill away from New Orleans, they would have to relinquish a first-round draft pick to do so. Plus, the Saints would have the opportunity to match any offer sheet other teams may offer. Restricted free agents have until April 17 to sign offer sheets.

Hill served as New Orleans’ third-string quarterback last year behind Brees and Teddy Bridgewater. When Brees missed five games with a thumb injury, Bridgewater started, and won, every game in Brees’ absence while Hill saw his offensive and special teams roles diminish with him serving as the lone backup at the QB position.

When Brees returned, Hill’s snaps increased — he played 241 offensive snaps last season, according to NBC Sports — and he caught 19 passes for 234 yards and six touchdowns while lining up at wide receiver and tight end. The dual-threat quarterback added 156 rushing yards and another touchdown on the ground, while completing 3 of 6 passes for 55 yards.

Bridgewater, who entered the start of the new NFL league year last week as an unrestricted free agent, parlayed that success into a new contract. He’s now with Carolina, officially signing with the Panthers on Wednesday. That left the possibility for Hill to move into the top backup spot behind Brees, who’s returning to New Orleans on a two-year deal worth $50 million, per ESPN.

With just two quarterbacks currently on the Saints roster, and with Hill expected to stay busy at other positions on the field, Payton said the team will look to bring in another quarterback.

“Because of that, you need a third quarterback dressed on the sideline. On any play, Taysom can come to the sideline and his finger can be pointed east and west. He’s going to be our second-string quarterback, and obviously play a number of snaps at other positions,” Payton told WWL Radio. “I think there will be another player who will be up on game days, because of what we want to do with Taysom.”

Headlining the current crop of quarterbacks in the unrestricted free agent market are Cam Newton, Jameis Winston and Joe Flacco, with more feasible options for a backup in guys like Blake Bortles, Blaine Gabbert, Josh McCown and Matt Moore.