Saints adding Dalton to QB mix, slot Hill at TE

  • Covered Saints for eight years at New Orleans Times-Picayune
  • Previously covered LSU football, San Francisco 49ers
  • Iowa native and University of Iowa graduate

The New Orleans Saints’ quarterback room will have a new look in 2022.

The Saints agreed to a one-year deal with veteran Andy Dalton to presumably serve as Jameis Winston’s backup, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Meanwhile, coach Dennis Allen confirmed Tuesday that New Orleans plans to use Taysom Hill primarily as a tight end.

Dalton’s deal is worth up to $6 million, with $3 million guaranteed, a source told ESPN. Winston signed a two-year deal worth $28 million plus incentives last week.

The Saints were in the market for another veteran quarterback after allowing former backup Trevor Siemian to leave for the Chicago Bears in free agency. Dalton, 34, certainly qualifies as an upgrade after starting 148 career games with a 77-69-2 record with the Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys and Bears over his 11-year career.

It’s no surprise the Saints want to continue using the versatile Hill, who has played as a quarterback in read-option packages; as a tight end, wide receiver, running back and fullback in other packages; and in several special teams roles.

“I think the role for Taysom really is going to be a lot more of the kind of F tight end, move tight end type of role. I think that’s the direction that we need to move with him, because I think he can be one of the better players in the league in that role,” Allen told reporters during the NFL meetings in Palm Beach, Florida. “So if Jameis is out there playing quarterback, I don’t really like having Taysom next to me on the sideline. And so I think you’ll see him more in that type of role.”

The Saints have always held that philosophy of not wanting to waste Hill’s talent on the sideline. So they rarely used him as the designated backup quarterback on game days. Hill, 31, started games at quarterback only when starters Drew Brees or Winston suffered long-term injuries.

It’s unclear if that will remain a possibility for Hill if a similar scenario arises, but Dalton’s presence would appear to make it less likely.

Hill has been one of the NFL’s most versatile players since the former BYU quarterback joined the Saints as an undrafted rookie in 2017. He has started nine games at quarterback over the past two seasons with an impressive 7-2 record. The 6-foot-2, 221-pounder has 34 career receptions for 388 yards and seven touchdowns in the regular season — plus another five catches for 32 yards and two touchdowns in the playoffs. He has 1,183 career rushing yards and 16 rushing TDs.

Hill signed a unique contract extension with the Saints in November that was scheduled to pay him $40 million over four years if he remains in a non-quarterback role, but could be worth up to $95 million if he became the starting QB and reached certain benchmarks.

Winston, meanwhile, expressed multiple times Monday that he is looking forward to being installed as the starting quarterback for an entire offseason instead of competing for the job throughout training camp and the preseason.

“I’m happy that I don’t have to go into training camp with a question of whether I’m going to be leading this team or not,” said Winston, who went 5-2 as New Orleans’ starter last season before tearing the ACL in his left knee. “I think that’s what a lot of people forget when we talk about continuity and we talk about development, I was not named this team’s starting quarterback until a week before we played the Green Bay Packers [in Week 1]. And during that same week, we’re migrating to Dallas and coordinating different things and having to move our entire family [to evacuate for Hurricane Ida].

“So me, as an overall leader, to have an impact on this team the way that I wanted to have an impact on this team … it was short-lived. So I’m excited to get that opportunity to have the full reins, to have everything that I need. And hopefully everyone in the building agrees with that too.”

Dalton spent his first nine seasons as Cincinnati’s starting quarterback after being drafted in the second round in 2011. He led the Bengals to the playoffs in each of his first five NFL seasons, which was the longest postseason streak in franchise history.

He spent the 2020 season with the Cowboys, initially as a backup behind Dak Prescott before becoming the starter after Prescott suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 5.

Dalton then signed a one-year, $10 million contract with the Bears in March 2021. Just over a month later, the Bears traded up in the first round to draft Justin Fields with the 11th overall pick.

One of the biggest storylines in Chicago last offseason centered on a quarterback competition in training camp between the 11-year NFL veteran and the rookie from Ohio State. Dalton started the first two games of the 2021 season before a knee injury sidelined him in Week 3 and ushered Fields into the lineup.

Dalton started four more games — in Weeks 12-13 and again in Weeks 16-17 — because of injuries to Fields.

Over the course of his career, Dalton has thrown for 35,279 yards with 226 touchdown passes and 135 interceptions. He also has the fourth-most career rushing touchdowns (22) among all quarterbacks since entering the NFL in 2011.

ESPN’s Courtney Cronin contributed to this report.

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