Did the New Orleans Saints make a mistake with the Taysom Hill contract?

After a tough start to the 2020 season, Taysom Hill's contract is starting to look like a very bad piece of business for the Saints.

It was one of the more shocking contracts of the offseason, and through the first six weeks of the 2020 NFL season, Taysom Hill’s big payday still does not appear to make any more sense for the New Orleans Saints. Quarterbacks will often command big money when their contract is up for discussion, and usually, a QB signing a deal worth $10.5 million per year would be considered a success. However, Hill is not a traditional QB, which is where this contract starts to get controversial for New Orleans.

What are the specifics of Taysom Hill’s contract?

Entering the 2020 NFL offseason, Taysom Hill was a restricted free agent. This raised the question of whether any team would be willing to offer the Saints’ Swiss Army Knife a lucrative contract to pry him away from New Orleans. No offer materialized immediately. However, the Saints still needed to solve the issue of how to handle Hill’s contract with him heading into his final year in New Orleans.

Related | Drew Brees’ Contract Details, Salary Cap Impact, and Bonuses

On April 27, they did just that, signing Hill to a two-year, $21 million deal. What was arguably even more stunning than the initial numbers was that $17.439 million of that was fully guaranteed. Of that $8 million was a signing bonus. Had the Saints done nothing, Hill would have been due $4.641 million in 2020. Therefore, this was essentially a one-year contract extension worth $16.359 million.

The structure of Taysom Hill’s contract

The structure of the contract is perhaps the most baffling. Hill has a cap hit of just $4.841 million in 2020, which, given the Saints had limited cap space in 2020, is perhaps the only positive. Therefore, Hill was due to count $16.159 million against the 2021 cap. For a team that projected to be $50 million over the cap next year, that is a lot of money for a player who has no defined role.

What makes it worse is that the Saints could not even move on from Hill. That is unless they could convince a team to trade for him. If the Saints were to cut Hill this offseason, they would be left holding $11.159 million in dead cap. That would have been a saving of just $5 million.

That high dead cap would be due to the massive $7.159 million in guaranteed salary that Hill was due. If the Saints could trade Hill, they could be looking at just a $4 million dead cap hit (the prorated signing bonus).

What had he done to deserve his big contract?

There is no denying that Hill is heavily utilized by the Saints. They use him as their personal protector on punts, and he has come up with some blocked punts as well.

If you look around the internet, you will find no shortage of highlights which demonstrate Hill’s versatility. In particular, Hill had a game on Thanksgiving in 2019 against the Atlanta Falcons, in which he demonstrated both sides of his versatility, blocking a punt and scoring an offensive touchdown.

That versatility is certainly valuable. However, on its own, it does not command the massive contract that the Saints gave to Taysom Hill in the last offseason. If we dig into Hill’s numbers from the first three years of his career, they do not exactly blow you away.

Through those three seasons, Hill has carried the ball 71 times for 410 yards and 3 touchdowns. On top of that, he has been targeted 33 times for 265 yards and 8 touchdowns. Seven of those came in 2019.

Taysom Hill has proved to be a difference-maker for the Saints

The problem for the Saints is that Hill can give their offense a shot in the arm when they need it most. In the 2019 Wild Card game against the Minnesota Vikings, Hill put up 75 yards and a touchdown on six touches. He added 50 yards through the air on his one passing attempt.

In that game, Drew Brees struggled, and Hill accounted for nearly a fifth of the Saints’ passing yards. That included the longest passing play of the game. He led the team in rushing, putting up more yards than Latavius Murray and Alvin Kamara combined. In the receiving game, he was also the man on the other end of Brees’ longest pass of the day.

Therein lies the problem that was faced by the Saints in the 2019 offseason. In Hill, they have a player who can flip a game. He can do that on special teams or offense, and that potential comes at a price. That was the issue the Saints were delicately balancing with the Taysom Hill contract.

The Saints may also harbor hopes that Hill could be a potential successor to Brees at some point. However, when Brees was injured in 2019, it was Teddy Bridgewater they utilized under center. They then brought in Jameis Winston to back up Brees in 2020, suggesting Hill may not be the QB in waiting.

With a career regular-season passing record of 7-for-15, 157 yards, zero touchdowns, two sacks, and an interception, up to that point it may not have been all that surprising.

Update: The Saints renegotiated Tayson Hill’s contract ahead of the 2021 season

On March 14, the Saints and Taysom Hill agreed to a one-year contract extension which also contains four void years. The deal contains a $9.686 million signing bonus and is valued at $12.159 million for the year.

The restructure saves the Saints $7.5 million in salary cap in 2021. However, the Saints will be left with $7.75 million in dead money when the contract voids in 2022.

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