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What was said that may indicate Taysom Hill could be the Saints’ starting quarterback in 2021

New Orleans Saints quarterback Taysom Hill (7) celebrates a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons during the first half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, in Atlanta.
John Amis, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton seems to consistently have something positive to say about reserve quarterback/do-it-all playmaker Taysom Hill.

On Tuesday during a segment on ESPN’s “Get Up!” Payton talked about Hill’s role for the Saints in the upcoming season. During the tail end of answering a question posed by host Mike Greenberg, the coach also hinted that Hill’s chance to compete for a starting QB position may come sooner than originally imagined for a franchise that has seen All-Pro quarterback Drew Brees leading the Saints since 2006.

“First and foremost, we still view him as a quarterback. We spent a lot of time this offseason discussing our vision for him this season,” Payton said of Hill, while mentioning that the former BYU quarterback is the third or fourth fastest player on the New Orleans roster and will resume his role at various offensive positions and on special teams.

Brees was set to become an unrestricted free agent when the new NFL league year began March 18, but he agreed to a two-year, $50 million deal, per ESPN, to return for New Orleans. Payton indicated, though, that the 41-year-old Brees wouldn’t be around both seasons of that contract.

“The unique situation with our team and with our quarterback Drew Brees is he’s announced he’s coming back for his final season. I think Taysom sees himself as being a starting quarterback in this league and we do, too,” Payton told Greenberg.

Could Hill then be in line to compete for the Saints’ starting position in 2021?

The Saints recently 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 $4.641 million, per Over the Cap.

While there is still the chance another NFL team could try and pursue Hill before he has to sign an offer sheet before the restricted free agency deadline on April 17, the Saints would have the opportunity to match any offer he receives. And if New Orleans failed to do so, the other team would be forced to give up a first-round draft pick to sign Hill.

That high price to sign away Hill — who’s thrown a total of 13 regular-season passes and two in the postseason during his three NFL seasons — makes it likely he will stay in New Orleans this season.

Earlier this offseason, Hill said he would relish the chance to learn for another season behind Brees.

“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 in February.

Last week, Payton told WWL Radio that the 29-year-old Hill will serve as the backup to Brees in 2020. In previous years, he’s been the third quarterback on the depth chart, including last year when Teddy Bridgewater served as the backup. Bridgewater is now in Carolina after signing a three-year deal with the Panthers.

“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. “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.”

In order to allow Hill that flexibility as a utility player on offense and special teams, Payton said the Saints will sign a veteran quarterback to serve as the third QB on game days.

“He’s going to be our second-string quarterback, and obviously play a number of snaps at other positions,” Payton told WWL Radio of Hill. “I think there will be another player who will be up on game days, because of what we want to do with Taysom.”