PROVO — Tayson Hill is in high cotton with his New Orleans Saints contract.
He’s got generational money for his family and he’s smart enough not to squander it.
He has the confidence of head coach Sean Payton to get a real chance at being QB2 and the heir apparent to future Hall of Famer Drew Brees, who turned 41 in January.
Hill’s new deal is designed to reflect the role expected beyond 2020. It also may tip the hand of Saints management concerning who replaces Brees one day.
He had a game plan of being anxious, eager and positive to take on any task with any position the Saints threw at him, and it paid off. He was the Saints’ Swiss Army knife, the league’s most recognized gadget player.
And he’s remained humble and determined to be QB1 one day.
If you break down the offseason posturing of the Saints, even the signing of Jameis Winston, and look at his new contract, reading the Taysom tea leaves all bring positive vibes.
Payton told CBS Sports Network’s Aditi Kinkhabwala this week that Hill has the inside track to replace Brees.
“When that time comes, and that’ll be probably at some point sooner than later, and Drew (Brees) decides to retire, I see Taysom (Hill) being a guy that has a great chance to come in there and become that QB,” said Payton.
"When that time comes, and that'll be probably at some point sooner than later, and Drew [Brees] decides to retire. I see Taysom [Hill] being a guy that has a great chance to come in there and become that QB."— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) May 12, 2020
Sean Payton joins We Need To Talk at 7 pm ET on CBS Sports Network. pic.twitter.com/Ewmmd3vDQT
“It gives us a Hall of Fame quarterback playing still at an elite level and then two young prospects we’re excited about, starting with Taysom Hill,” Payton said. “We’ve got a ton of confidence in him and there’s a big reason why he was tendered with a first-round pick and then paid accordingly.”
Winston, who led the NFL with 5,109 yards and 33 touchdown passes in 2019, will take a $19 million pay cut to be in the Saints’ QB discussion, according to Spotrac.com and the Tampa Bay Times. Winston made $20.1 million last year with Tampa Bay and has made northwards of $40 million during his career with five years starting experience.
Still, the Saints brought in Winston with Hill, who will be paid more even without starting experience as a quarterback. As a Saints QB, Winston will make $1.1 million for 2020. That’s what he made each week with the Bucs last year.
That’s a telltale sign of New Orleans’ intentions with Hill.
Ross Jackson, host of the “Locked on Saints Podcast,” broke down Hill’s contract and explained the compass points in what the Saints are looking for with Brees, Hill and Winston.
The Saints signed Hill to a two-year $21 million contract with $16 million guaranteed. “So, you are looking at $10.5 million a year, or look at the guaranteed money, $8 million a year, and to me that is the more important number,” said Ross.
“If you look at the way the contract structure is broken down, it, of course, breaks out a little bit different because he’s getting paid more in 2021 than he’s going to be paid in 2020. This has a lot to do with the CBA that is being negotiated, where teams could only raise the base salary so much per year. The Saints don’t usually use that kind of limit and so that was a big deal when the CBA was ratified, that they didn’t have to worry about the base salaries here.”
Hill’s guaranteed base in 2020 is $841,000. That gives the Saints the flexibility in 2020 to bring on Winston, help out Hill and take care of Brees and others. Hill’s guaranteed bonus in 2021 of $10.72 million is larger than the 30% increase and that’s helpful to the Saints to have room to build.
That Hill makes more in 2021 means the Saints’ Plan A is to have Hill as the heir apparent if everything plays out and Brees retires after the upcoming season. This could all be moot if Winston somehow elevates himself as a Saints’ QB in 2020.
Winston says he is looking forward to “learning” from Brees and enhancing his skill level as a passer.
In a Zoom meeting after he signed, Winston explained his thoughts about joining New Orleans. “Being a quarterback, you have to be a student of the game. So now, I actually get a chance to dive into that more, and I actually have a Hall-of-Fame quarterback that I’m learning from, as opposed to trying to learn by myself or use Google.”
Winston threw 30 interceptions and lost five fumbles last season, numbers that soured many Bucs fans on the former Heisman Trophy winner.
What is interesting with these numbers is Hill is being paid a base salary of what a player with four to six years experience makes.
His bonus speaks volumes of how the Saints view him not only as a utility player but a future QB and team leader on the field and in the locker room.
Former Tennessee Titans QB Marcus Mariota lost his job six games into the season in 2019 to Ryan Tannehill. Mariota inked a $17.6 million, two-year contract with the Raiders as the No. 2 guy behind Derek Carr. Mariota has $7.5 million guaranteed in 2020 and he was the No. 2 overall pick behind Winston in the 2015 NFL draft.
Payton told the New Orleans Advocate this week, for those who are not sold on Hill as a starter, they just aren’t aware.
“It’s probably because they haven’t seen enough of him in games and I can certainly understand that. Now, that being said, we’ve seen hundreds of reps that weren’t necessarily regular-season games and we’ve seen some of the things we feel he can do on a consistent basis.
“That’s often the case with any new player, by new I mean that time that comes where Taysom is transitioning into quarterback-only, people are excited or anxious to see, hey, how does this guy function down-in and down-out at that position?
“We think he’s going to be an outstanding NFL quarterback. He’s a very good athlete. But I think that’s a normal reaction for any fan relative to someone that is getting ready to play that position and they haven’t had the same amount of snaps to look at.”
Payton was asked what he would say to people who aren't sold on Taysom Hill as a quarterback. pic.twitter.com/XtxxASh5hY— Luke Johnson (@ByLukeJohnson) May 14, 2020
Who knows what the 2020 NFL season will look like in this era of a deadly virus and social distancing gymnastics.
One thing that is known is this:
Hill finds himself respected big-time.