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NFL Open Thread: Sean Payton’s Hill to Die on Edition

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Erik requested that one of the most ridiculous contracts in recent NFL history be the subject of this week’s thread, and I am happy to oblige:

In the NFL, it’s both easy and dangerous to lose track of time and money.

This is Taysom Hill’s fifth season with the New Orleans Saints. He has already been paid $22.6 million. He is now scheduled to make either $40 million or $95 million over the next four years, depending on whether or not he finds a magic lamp with a genie inside.

Hill began receiving regular preseason reps at quarterback in 2018. He was given four starts in 2020. He was given the chance to battle Jameis Winston for the starting job in 2021. He has been given many, many developmental opportunities. Yet he has been mostly used as a Wildcat specialist and (in Week 11) a healthy inactive while Trevor Siemian steered the Saints offense into a culvert over the last month. He has caught four passes and rushed 20 times this season for a team desperate for offensive firepower.

Hill is now 31 years old. His value as a slot gadget specialist is fading. His value as a backup quarterback—2020 illustrated that he has some value as a backup quarterback—is holding steady at “he can help you beat the Falcons” level. He just signed a deal that will pay him roughly Nelson Agholor money at worst and Ryan Tannehill money at best, with a team that was scheduled to be $56 million over the cap before signing starters at critical positions (such as quarterback) in 2022.

Sean Payton clearly plans to give Hill another crack at the starting quarterback job in 2022; if that fails, Hill slides back to his gadget role. It sure sounds like Payton has lost track of the time he has already spend twiddling with his favorite toy, not to mention the years Taysom lost to injury coming out of college. The organization has also already lost track of its sunk costs. They were already preemptively paying Taysom to develop into a starter in 2020 and 2021. He’s eating up more cap space than Winston and Siemian combined this year to sit on the bench and watch Siemian throw pick-sixes before halftime. Guaranteeing another $22.5 million on spec can only be described as utterly bananapants.

Payton must believe that age is just a number and a half-decade is a reasonable gestation time for a quarterback. He probably remembers Rich Gannon but forgets that’s a lone example from 20 years ago. Or maybe Payton remembers coaching the young Tony Romo and has become really foggy about the details. And Mickey Loomis has spent his way out of enough debts to convince himself that the salary cap isn’t real.

The cap is very real. The Saints just chose their third-string quarterback over some combination of 2022 free agents Terron Armstead, Marcus Williams, Deonte Harris, Tre’Quan Smith, and Kwon Alexander, to say nothing of Winston, Siemian, anyone they might covet in free agency, and any veterans (Malcolm Jenkins?) they may be forced to cut to become cap-compliant. And Drew Brees isn’t around to make everyone look like a genius anymore.

Enjoy the extended run of the Lovechild Experience, Saints fans. It may not be exciting, but it’s sure to be expensive.

How an incredibly cash-strapped team can simultaneously think that a 31-year-old mostly-QB can be worth north of $20M a year guaranteed and not good enough to start ahead of Trevor Siemian is one of life’s great mysteries. And I don’t think Saints fans are going to like the resolution.

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