If Taysom Hill tells you something will happen in the future, it might not be wise to doubt him.
The New Orleans Saints quarterback, a restricted free agent who on Sunday agreed to terms on a two-year contract, isn't yet a starter in the NFL. In fact, the 29-year-old only has thrown 13 regular-season passes in his first three seasons.
But a two-year deal supports the fact that he's a valuable Saint, and the notion that he'll be New Orleans' starter if Drew Brees retires after his 20th season, in 2020.
And it buttresses Hill's belief that, despite his circuitous route, the journey will take him to a starting position. And his route definitely has been winding – four season-ending injuries in college, rookie free agent in Green Bay in 2017, waived after training camp and claimed by the Saints the next day, playing special teams initially just to get on the field, then adding pop to the offense as a tight end, receiver and situational quarterback.
"I can tell you I had four season-ending injuries and I was going to give everything I could to try to make an NFL roster, but the goal has never changed," Hill said. "As soon as I got to New Orleans, I had the same goal in mind. We took a few detours to get here, but we got here. I always felt like I was capable. Coach (Sean) Payton and the other staff created opportunities to allow me to get here.
"I look back at my college career and to get to where I'm at and going through the injuries and look, I'm not naive, I knew that I wasn't going to get drafted coming out of college because of the injuries and everything else.
"But I continued to keep my head down and Coach Payton has always said in his first team meeting when we get back with the rookies is, 'I don't care how you got here. I don't care if you were drafted, if you're undrafted, but you're here and that's what matters. And now what we care about is what you do now that you're here,' and I'm a prime example of that. But as I look back at everything, certainly it's been a journey and it's caused me to reflect on all those people in my life that allowed me to get here."
"Here" is the Saints' No. 2 quarterback. Possibly, it also means that his role will adjust.
"It's hard to say right now," Hill said. "I think right now, the plan would be to probably limit some of the things that I was doing from a special team standpoint, and the role will be more focused at the quarterback position, and then finding ways to involve me offensively. I look at kind of what we did against Minnesota (in the playoffs), in terms of snap count, creativity and stuff like that. As I look into 2020, I think that's kind of my vision for it."
Against the Vikings in the Saints' Wild Card playoff loss, Hill ran four times for 50 yards, completed a 50-yard pass and caught two passes for 25 yards and a touchdown. For the season, he caught 22 passes for 240 yards and six touchdowns, carried 27 times for 156 yards and a touchdown, completed three of seven passes for 56 yards, and deflected a punt and added two tackles on special teams.
During contract negotiations, Hill said he and the Saints quickly agreed that a two-year deal would be optimal for both sides.
"I think as you look at long-term contracts in terms of guaranteed money and what that looks like, I think this contract creates a clear trajectory and opportunity for me to compete and to be the guy in New Orleans in 2021 if Drew decides to be done," he said. "If he's not, then we'll figure out another contract or my role will continue to be the way that it is. And so as we looked at it, this was a way to prevent me to get to free agency next year and it created some structure for both me and my family, as well as the organization.
"I don't know what Drew is going to do, if he's going to play two more years, one, three, four. And I've never changed. I told him this at the end of the season, that, 'I hope that you come back. It's better for the NFL if you're playing and starting for the New Orleans Saints.' And I've always felt that way. And so if he wants to come back and play in 2021, I am all for it. I'm his biggest fan. I think as far as what my role is, this contract just secured an opportunity to be that guy if Drew decides to retire."
Hill said that if he's "that guy," he's prepared.
"I know what it takes to be a good quarterback," he said. "I've had the opportunity to learn from Drew. I think what makes a great quarterback is decision-making, accuracy, arm strength, and I feel like I have the capability to do all those things at a high level.
"A lot of people have been critical of the number of balls that I've thrown, or completions, or whatever it is. But at the end of the day, I look at my career in the NFL and I've done my best to take advantage of every opportunity that I've been given. And so, because I've thrown 13 passes or whatever that number is, that does not mean that I'm not capable of doing it. So I feel capable of doing it, I trust in Coach Payton's system and his process."
The process allowed Hill to gain his footing in the NFL and possibly it will help him secure a chance to start. The Saints placed a first-round tender offer on Hill (if another team had been able to pry him away, it would have done so while also giving its first-round pick to New Orleans), which likely tamped down possible suitors. But Hill said New Orleans was where he wants to be.
"It was really the Saints the whole way through," he said. "My agent was kind of fielding some of those conversations, he was obviously having conversations with other organizations about other players and things. I think the first-round tender made it difficult for someone to really make a run me. At the end of the day, my wife and I always wanted to stay in New Orleans, so this worked out perfect."