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Is Sean Payton Wary Of Bill Belichick Making A Run At Taysom Hill For Patriots?

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) -- Tom Brady is the GOAT. Drew Brees is the statistical GOAT. Nobody knows what the future will bring for either quarterback, as Brees is contemplating retirement and Brady is entering free agency for the first time ever.

And while there are many unknowns regarding the individual players, there likewise will be some big changes in store for both of their teams. And they may be intertwined ... to the point where their head coaches may already be infringing on the other's thinking space.

For the Saints, reports say that Sean Payton would ideally like to have Brees return for a year before handing the reins over to Taysom Hill. The versatile Hill has been a triple threat for the Saints, rusing for 352 yards and three touchdowns, catching 22 passes for 238 yards and six touchdowns, and completing six of 13 passes for 119 yards over the past three seasons. He was excellent in the Saints' lone playoff game this past season, rushing four times for 50 yards, making two receptions for 25 yards, and completing a 50-yard pass.

That performance, plus Payton's endorsement, has raised hopes for his future as a quarterback in the NFL.

Yet with Hill entering restricted free agency, the Saints are at risk of potentially losing him. And it seems like Payton is at least a little worried that the Patriots may be swooping in for the steal.

Consider this quote that Payton gave to Peter King:

"Yeah, I think someone is going to make him an offer. But the first thing the fan has to understand is ... if we tender Taysom as a one [meaning placing a first-round tag on him], 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]."

As a restricted free agent, Hill can shop his services around the league. If he agrees to a deal with a new team, the Saints have the right to match it, thereby keeping Hill at the proper price dictated by the market. If the Saints choose to not match the price, then the team signing Hill would have to surrender a pick at the round which Hill is tendered. Payton envisions the Saints placing a first-round tender on Hill.

And while Payton doesn't envision any team giving up a top-20 pick for a soon-to-be-30-year-old QB with limited experience and a moderately high price tag, he clearly has a heightened awareness of teams in the 20s who may be in need of a versatile quarterback.

It stands out, of course, that Payton specifically noted picks No. 22-25.

The Bills are at 22. They have their quarterback.

The Saints themselves are at 24. They won't be in the RFA bidding on Hill.

The Vikings are at 25. With Kirk Cousins entering the final year of his big deal, the Vikings could theoretically be in the market for a QB.

But then there is New England, sitting at No. 23 with a very, very uncertain quarterbacking situation.

Based on the specificity of his quote, and based on what could be seen as a willingness for the Patriots to move on from Tom Brady, it would seem as though Payton is envisioning Bill Belichick sitting in a darkened room, breaking down film of all the different things Hill can do, envisioning how that might reinvigorate an offense that had sand in its gears in 2019.

Belichick has flirted with the versatile quarterback a little bit, bringing Tim Tebow to camp back in 2013 and briefly experimenting with Danny Etling as a receiver last summer.

Of course, it's equally possible that Payton threw out those numbers haphazardly, or that the Vikings are on his radar, or even the Dolphins (owners of the 26th overall pick), Titans (29th), or Jaguars (20th).

Yet with quarterbacks north of 40 facing yet-to-be-determined NFL futures, it does seem clear that the short-term decisions at QB for both the Saints and Patriots could end up having some long-term repercussions for the next five to 10 years.

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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