Josh Hill's Bears Offer Sheet Matched by Saints: Latest Comments, Reaction

Daniel KramerFeatured Columnist

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 03:  Josh Hill #89 of the New Orleans Saints runs after a catch during the first half against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on January 3, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

The New Orleans Saints announced on March 25 they have matched the offer sheet from the Chicago Bears for restricted free agent Josh Hill and will retain the veteran tight end.

Hill signed a three-year, $7.5 million deal with the Bears on March 22, per Jeff Dickerson of ESPN. The Saints had five days to match the offer and did so.

The Bears' offer included $3.25 million guaranteed, per Dickerson. Hill also met with the New York Jets, per James Parks of 247Sports.

However, on Monday, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported the three-year deal is worth $7.1 million and can max out a $8.15 million in incentives. On Wednesday, Nick Underhill of the New Orleans Advocate noted Hill's deal has a no-trade clause.

The Saints would not have been compensated if they hadn't matched the Bears’ offer, per Darin Gantt of Pro Football Talk, as they signed Hill as an undrafted free agent in 2013 and tendered him at the lowest level in the offseason.

Before he signed the offer sheet, Hill’s one-year tender with New Orleans was worth $1.671 million, per Evan Woodbery of the Times-Picayune.

Among the Saints’ restricted free agents, Hill joined center Senio Kelemete in rejoining the team. Running back Khiry Robinson signed with the Jets, and guard Tim Lelito’s future is uncertain. He has until April 22 to sign an offer sheet with another team, but as was the case with Hill, the Saints would have the right of first refusal.

Earlier in March, the Saints signed former Indianapolis Colts tight end Coby Fleener to a five-year, $36 million deal, which has been their biggest splash in free agency. 

They also added free-agent linebacker James Laurinaitis on a three-year, $8.55 million deal, with $1.8 million guaranteed, per Spotrac.

Before they retained Hill on Friday, NFLPA records revealed the Saints were down to just $273,000 in available cap space, per Katherine Terrell of the Times-Picayune—the lowest in the league. 

They still have the NFL draft ahead, meaning they'll need to do some restructuring if they hope to sign all of their picks.

Head coach Sean Payton said at the NFL Scouting Combine in February that the team was discussing an extension with quarterback Drew Brees, per Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio. Brees is slated to earn $30 million in base salary in 2016—the most in the league, per Spotrac

By retaining Hill, the Saints will have great depth at tight end with a two-headed punch that they hope will match the efficacy All-Pro Jimmy Graham provided before they traded him to the Seattle Seahawks in March 2015.

But investing in Hill comes as a double-edged sword, as the Saints are strapped for cash and may have to make major personnel adjustments to create room for his new contract.