If ever the NFL decides to give out an award for best contract, there’s no question that it would go to the New Orleans Saints for what they have done with Taysom Hill. He’s been a valuable player for them since 2017 as a utility player. He can play upback on special teams, wildcat quarterback, regular quarterback, and catch passes. However, because he does a little of everything, but doesn’t specialize in anything, that can make his monetarial value as a professional football player difficult to quantify.
What the Saints have decided to do recently is renegotiate his contract each season. Terms are released to the media, like $16 million guaranteed or $140 million in total. These numbers mean nothing. Hill is 31 years old. If he was capable of being a starting quarterback he would have shown it by now. Instead, he is a player that the Saints organization likes and they have used his contract renegotiations to preserve salary cap space.
In spring 2020, Hill could’ve taken a one-year restricted free agency tender of just over $4 million. If he had taken that deal he could’ve been eligible for the franchise tag in 2021. That means for the Saints to place the tag on him they would’ve had to pay him the average of the top five quarterback salary cap hits over the previous five seasons. Good for him, especially with an aging Drew Brees who would eventually retire after the 2020 season.
Except, the Saints had so much confidence in Hill as a successor that they were working on a contract with Jameis Winston, who had just thrown 33 touchdowns and 30 interceptions for their division rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Instead of that one-year gamble to get Kirk Cousins Washington money, Hill signed a two-year, $21 million contract, $16 million guaranteed, which would be spread over two seasons.
The bill on that came due for the Saints following the 2020 season. His cap hit, with Brees now retired, was going to be just over $16 million. With the Saints’ salary cap already stretched thin, that wasn’t going to work. They instead negotiated a contract extension with Hill that if he made every dollar would be worth four years, $120 million, but all four years were voidable. What Hill actually received was just over $12 million guaranteed for the 2021 season, and the Saints saved $7.5 million of cap space.
No time was wasted on the Saints’ decision on what to do with Hill for the 2022 season. Before they take the field on Thanksgiving against the Buffalo Bills, they again renegotiated Hill’s contract. If the contract was voided after this season, per Spotrac’s Michael Ginnitti it would’ve automatically voided, and Hill would’ve counted for nearly $9 million against the salary cap in 2022. Instead, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Hill signed a deal that will pay him $22.5 million in guarantees over the next four years. The total is $40 million if he remains a backup, but if he somehow became the Saints starting quarterback for the next four seasons it would pay Hill $95 million.
What the Saints are doing with Hill’s contract is art that should be admired in a gallery. They like what he brings to the team, but they know he can’t start at quarterback. He missed three weeks this season due to injury but has played in the Saints last two games and since his return, the supposed heir apparent to Brees has completed 100 percent of his passes, 4-4, for 44 yards, ran the ball four times for 27 yards, and caught one pass for 15 yards. The Saints were forced to go with Trevor Siemian as a starter once Winston went down in the first half of the Saints big Week 8 win against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Even with Hill back in the lineup, the Saints have continued with Siemian as the starter. They have lost their last three games, including one to the Atlanta Falcons who have scored three total points in the last two weeks.
Even though the Saints aren’t going to make the playoffs this season, they deserve some credit for the shrewd way they’ve handled the quarterback position since it was clear that Brees didn’t have much time left in his career. They have stretched and massaged Hill’s contract to save themselves cap room the last two seasons, with contract numbers that mean as much as if I said I’m giving readers of my this article $140 million. Hill has still been a contributor, and kept the season afloat in 2020 when he had to start while Brees missed four games due to injury.
It was all going to work seamlessly in the Saints first season since 2005 without Brees, but Winston tore an ACL therefore ending any chance the Saints had at postseason success. No team in the NFL is surviving a season-ending quarterback injury. What the Saints have done with Hill, throwing him a few guaranteed dollars and saving salary cap space while publishing contract numbers they’ll never pay out, is some Hall of Fame Cap management. They deserve a bust in Canton with the Saints logo and “$140 million, lol” inscribed underneath.
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