Saints master-of-all-trades Taysom Hill‘s contract has expired. He’s due to become a restricted free agent. And the Saints are bracing for someone to try to pilfer him.
“I think someone is going to make him an offer,” coach Sean Payton recently told Peter King of Football Morning in America. “But the first thing the fan has to understand is . . . if we tender Taysom [at the first-round level], the team that makes the offer on him and signs him to an offer understands they’re going to give up a first-round pick if we don’t match. That’s easier to do if you’re pick 22, 23, 24, 25. We might very well see it if it’s a team in the second half of the [first round].”
Payton’s response implies several things. First, Payton doesn’t expect to sign Hill before applying a restricted free agent tender. Second, Payton anticipates applying the first-round tender, which will be more than $6 million for 2020. Third, he expects a team in the lower portion of the round to make an offer. (Picks No. 22, 23, 24, and 25, which were specifically mentioned by Payton, belong to the Bills, Patriots, Saints, Vikings, respectively.)
Fourth, it looks like the Saints will do whatever they have to do to match. Fifth, it’s entirely possible that the Saints know what they’ll be paying quarterback Drew Brees in 2020, if he decides not to retire, and that they’re confident they can afford both.
It’s clear that Payton hopes to keep Hill. When King told Payton that King would like to see Payton coach Hill for the next decade, Payton said, “I’d like to do that. He was a valuable [waivers] claim for us. Like gold bullion.”
Here’s another thing to keep in mind: If the Saints are intent on matching the offer, a team could structure an offer sheet to get Hill back to the market in 2021, with the goal of trying to sign him then. If, for example, a team like the Patriots offers Hill $15 million on a one-year deal with the offer including a commitment that the franchise tag and transition tag would not be used in 2021, matching the offer would give the Saints only one more year with Hill before he hits the open market, free and clear.
Of course, the team crafting the offer sheet would risk giving up a first-round pick for Hill and getting only one year out of him. But if the Saints are intent on keeping him, the reward is Hill becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2021, with no limitations on his availability.