Patriots Named ‘the Team to Watch’ for Saints QB: Report

Taysom Hill

Getty Images New Orleans Saints QBs Drew Brees and Taysom Hill

Next month two of the league’s premier passers, New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees and New England Patriots QB Tom Brady, are scheduled to hit the open market. At 41 and 42 years old, respectively, the future Hall of Famers are both flight risks for retirement, although Brady’s return in 2020 appears more imminent.

While attending the Pro Bowl in January, Brees acknowledged that if he does return for his 15th season, it will only be with the Saints organization. Among the Saints’ two dozen impending free agents are all three of the passers on the team’s active roster – Brees, Teddy Bridgewater, and Taysom Hill. The latter, who is a restricted free agent, could make for an intriguing option for teams looking for a playmaking presence at the quarterback position if New Orleans isn’t willing to match if another franchise makes an offer.

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NFL columnist Mike Freeman doesn’t believe the Saints front office will allow Hill to get away, but in the event he does, the Bleacher Report analyst considers New England Hill’s most likely suitor.

Payton told NBC Sports’ Peter King that he believes a team will attempt to sign Hill to a restricted free-agent contract this offseason. If a team does, the Saints can match it. The team to watch is the Patriots, who may make a run at Hill whether Tom Brady returns or not.

Hill initially entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent of the Green Bay Packers following the 2017 NFL Draft. He was waived prior to the 2017 season and quickly claimed by the Saints. In his first three seasons as a pro, the 6’2,” 221-pound playmaker has emerged as a jack of all trades in Sean Payton’s potent offensive scheme. After playing only a fraction of the team’s special teams snaps in his first year, Hill has seen his role expand quickly over the past two years, racking up 352 rushing yards and three touchdowns to go along with 22 receptions for 238 yards and six touchdowns through the air (all in 2019).

While Freeman believes Hill “could even ascend into the Patrick Mahomes-Lamar Jackson stratosphere” if he were to remain in New Orleans, not everyone is sold on his ceiling outside of his current situation. The versatility the third-year quarterback provides could be a fit for Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels, albeit not as a traditional pocket passer in the mold of Brady. Should the Patriots veteran depart in free agency, the question becomes whether New England is willing to make a strong enough offer that New Orleans is unlikely to match.

Analyst Pegs Patriots As Destination For Teddy Bridgewater, Too

A 2014 first-round draft pick, Bridgewater has backed up Brees for the past two seasons, but was forced into the starting role for five weeks in 2019 when Brees underwent thumb surgery. The fifth-year quarterback led the Saints to a 5-0 record during the veteran’s absence early in the season, compiling 1,384 passing yards and a 9:2 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

If Brees elects to return in 2020, New Orleans is likely to lose Bridgewater’s services to the free agent market. Freeman also suggests that New England is a viable situation for the 27-year-old to continue his development should Brady change uniforms.

3. Bridge to everywhere
One last thing on the Saints quarterbacks. Yes, I’m a Hill fan, but do not sleep on Teddy Bridgewater, the other Saints quarterback from last season.

He’s excellent and, like Hill, could easily be a franchise quarterback. A really terrific one. Bridgewater would just do it differently. He’s a pocket passer, while Hill is a stick of dynamite.

It should shock no one if Bridgewater goes somewhere like the Patriots (if Brady leaves) and leads them to a playoff run and beyond.

Bridgewater could earn a free agent contract in the range of $20 million annually, according to Spotrac. New England currently projects to have approximately $29 million in salary cap space with a few high-level free agents set to hit the market.

READ NEXT: Patriots and Jets Could Exchange Top Free Agents, per Analyst

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