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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
John Sigler

Never say never, but Sean Payton won’t trade for Taysom Hill any time soon

Never say never, but Sean Payton won’t trade for Taysom Hill any time soon. Or it’s more accurate to say that Payton can’t trade Hill in the immediate future. Hill’s contract with the New Orleans Saints means any move makes more sense for the summer: if the Saints trade him before June 1, they’ll be on the hook for $13,875,000 in dead money. Trading him to the Denver Broncos before free agency, the draft, and the first weeks of summer would save the team only $50,000 against the salary cap.

That’s not to say Payton won’t trade for one of his favorite players. The former Saints head coach as suggested as much himself, half-jokingly suggesting he’d be happy to take on Hill’s contract (which carries salary cap hits of more than $14 million in each of the next three years). Payton uncorked some really unique plays and personnel packages with Hill for New Orleans, and it checks out that he’d like to import the 33-year-old to his new Broncos roster.

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In addition to the financial considerations, Payton doesn’t have much to offer the Saints in a trade right now. After trading for Payton and franchise quarterback Russell Wilson, Denver is left with a pittance of picks in the 2023 draft: a pair of third rounders and selections in rounds four, five, and six. Payton will want to hold onto those picks to spend on his own rookie players in a few months. It would probably take more than he’s willing to pay to convince the Saints to part ways with Hill at this stage in the offseason.

That’s not to say this will be the case later on. The Broncos own their first rounder in 2024 as well as picks in rounds three, four, five, six, and seven — double-dipping with third-, fifth-, and seventh-rounders. If the Saints want to wait to trade Hill until it’s easier for them to deal with the salary cap accounting, the Broncos can accommodate them with all of those future picks. By waiting to trade Hill until after June 1, the Saints can save $10.15 million against the salary cap while being left with a dead money hit of just $4.025 million. Those are real savings they could put towards inking their rookie draft class.

Which brings us to gauging Hill’s value. He’s coming off of his best year as a pro, having gained 575 rushing yards and scored 7 touchdown runs while picking up 77 receiving yards and scoring 2 touchdown catches — in addition to his 240 passing yards and 2 touchdown throws. And that’s without any consistent usage as Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael seemed to write him out of the game plan at times last season. Hill is also going to carry greater appeal to Payton than any other coach in the league given their preexisting relationship.

Hill would likely fetch more than a sixth rounder, which is what has been traded recently for backup quarterbacks like Gardner Minshew and Joe Flacco, because of his effectiveness as a utility player. Veteran tight end Zach Ertz was traded for a fifth-round pick in 2021, though he’s much more of a true tight end than Hill. There aren’t many other players like him around the league. So what’s appropriate value for him?

Let’s combine those two together and say one fourth-round pick beat a fifth and a sixth; after all, the Broncos would be getting a backup quarterback and a playmaking tight end (and slot receiver, fullback, special teams playmaker, and so on. You get the idea). If the Saints can hold onto Hill’s contract into the summer and get a 2024 fourth rounder back from Denver, saving more than $10 million against the cap in the process, that’s probably a win.

But it’s more complicated, as often feels like the case for this team. The Saints would have to keep Hill around on his salary cap hit of $14,175,000 through June in order to max out their savings. And it would be really difficult for them to trade for Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr with Hill’s contract taking up such a large chunk of their resources. They need to release a couple of players and restructure nearly a dozen more to fit Carr on the books, including Hill. If Carr is in their plans, Hill has to be, too.

So never say never. But the stars aren’t aligning in a way that sends Hill to Denver just yet. Payton could very well buck conventional wisdom and work something out with the Saints’ creative salary cap management team (led by football administration vice president Khai Harley) to get his way. Maybe he’d have to send the Saints’ third-round pick back to them in next year’s draft to make it happen. For now, though, it’s more of an elaborate daydream.

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