An entry into restricted free agency and a weeks-old quote from Super Bowl week had the NFL world talking on Monday, centered around one single question: Is New Orleans Saints do-everything player Taysom Hill a future franchise quarterback?
It’s a question NFL teams will attempt to answer as they wade through the restricted free agency process, and their answer could determine whether or not they land the versatile talent.
Hill told Rob Maaddi of the Associated Press that he thinks the answer is “Yes,” and he’s willing to leave the Saints if it means landing with a team that views him as such:
"I definitely view myself as a franchise quarterback. I think as you look at the other questions: Is it New Orleans? Is it somewhere else? As you go into free agency, this is the time that you start to find out how people view you. We haven't gotten into free agency long enough to really know how these guys view me and we'll just handle it as it comes."
What’s already certain is that Hill is a dynamic talent with a place in the NFL, even if it’s currently in a somewhat low-usage role with the Saints. He’s a fan favorite in New Orleans and has proven to be legitimately dangerous with the ball.
If Hill were willing to stay in his current role where he sees most of his snaps at tight end and in the slot while also working at quarterback, running back and special teams, there would be little reason to leave New Orleans beyond money.
However, Hill clearly views himself as more than that and thinks he can cut it as a legitimate, every-snap quarterback, and as long as Drew Brees is around, that opportunity won’t be in New Orleans. Brees has said he’s willing to cede snaps to Hill next year if they both return, but it’s hard to see that compromise being satisfactory for Hill if he can get a better opportunity elsewhere. And Saints coach Sean Payton apparently thinks someone will be willing to make him an offer.
Can Taysom Hill be a legit quarterback?
As far as NFL careers go, there aren’t a lot like Taysom Hill. He enrolled at BYU after his two-year LDS church mission and spent five years in Provo, where he suffered four season-ending injuries.
At 26 years old, Hill was nearly Brandon Weeden-level ancient for a draft prospect, had a history of injuries and didn’t even have great stats at BYU, finishing his career at 6.6 yards per attempt, 41 touchdowns and 31 interceptions. That left him undrafted, at which point he signed with the Green Bay Packers.
Hill was waived at the end of the 2017 preseason and landed with the Saints, who have since used him all over the field on offense and special teams. That tenure has coincided with a stretch in which the Saints averaged more than 12 wins per season.
Hill’s rushing and receiving stats show a legit red zone weapon, but that’s not what we’re talking about. Hill is ostensibly a quarterback, and, oddly enough, the most incomplete part of his resume is his passing. In his career, Hill has attempted only 13 career passes, completing six of them for 119 yards, no touchdowns and one interception.
If those are franchise quarterback numbers, Mohamed Sanu better get on the phone.
QB Mohamed Sanu: 7/8, 233 yards, 4 TD
QB Taysom Hill: 6/13, 119 yards, 0 TD
— Evan Birchfield (@EvanBirchfield) February 10, 2020
Hill has had other opportunities to show his passing prowess in the preseason, where his numbers are much stronger but not “blow you away” strong. Seven touchdowns and three interceptions in three preseason campaigns, a 99.8 passer rating in his most recent preseason.
While most NFL players are just getting started after three years in the league, it is so, so important to remember that Hill — because of his late entry to the draft — will be 30 years old at the beginning of next season.
So you have a quarterback who is just a year younger than Cam Newton, who has a history of injuries, who was inconsistent in college, who has a career passer rating more than 15 points lower than Josh Rosen (in a sample of 13 passes) and who has shown his best work in preseason, like countless mediocre quarterbacks.
Those are the cons. The pros are, well, his rushing, receiving and special teams play. His passing is, at best, an enigma.
Which team would want to take a chance on QB1 Taysom Hill?
Clearly, committing to Hill as a franchise quarterback comes with enormous risk. The reward is maybe his passing takes a step forward and you have a relatively low-cost knock-off of the dual-threat quarterbacks currently taking over the NFL.
But who is willing to make that risk when Hill is going to be 30 during their season opener?
Rebuilding teams will want — and will be trying to draft — quarterbacks who can start for the next decade, not just the next few years. Why would they want Hill over even the lower-tier quarterback prospects like Jordan Love and Jacob Eason, who are all 23 or younger, who were all better in college, who will be on a rookie-scale contract and who have thrown only 13 fewer passes than Hill in regular season NFL action?
Contending teams, or teams on the brink of contention, already have their quarterbacks or could have better options elsewhere (like the guy who actually backed up Brees this year, unrestricted free agent Teddy Bridgewater).
Maybe a team becomes enamored with the ideal vision of Hill, or maybe Hill ends up willing to accept a low-cost deal that could give him an actual, but not guaranteed, shot at starting.
It’s just hard to see any team accepting Hill’s current body of work as that of a future franchise quarterback, which might leave the Saints — who apparently believe Hill can replace Brees after the latter’s retirement — as his best option.
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