After phone calls from several NFL teams started coming in Saturday, Shaun Hill and his wife, Ashton, sat down and listed pros and cons of each potential destination.
Among the pluses the Hills saw in the 35-year-old quarterback coming back to the Vikings was his familiarity with the Twin Cities, his four positive years here a decade ago, and the presence of offensive coordinator Norv Turner, a coach whom Hill credits with helping him have a still-going NFL career.
The money, $6.5 million over the next two seasons, surely helped matters, too.
But while the inability to compete for the starting job would be a major minus for many quarterbacks, Hill was actually quite comfortable with the idea of backing up and mentoring Teddy Bridgewater, a role he has filled with three other first-round QBs.
“It’s better for everybody if you have your established roles,” Hill said Wednesday on a conference call with local media. “And I’ll be able to fit that role for sure.”
Hill picked the Vikings on Tuesday, the same day that the team’s trade of veteran quarterback Matt Cassel to the Buffalo Bills became official. Cassel wanted another starting opportunity, and the Vikings received draft-pick compensation to grant his wish. And in Hill, they got a cheaper second-stringer who feels he can help Bridgewater in his ascension.
In his 14 years in the NFL, Hill has shared meeting rooms and practice fields with the likes of such former top picks as Alex Smith, Matthew Stafford and just this past season Sam Bradford. Bridgewater, the 32nd overall pick a year ago, will be the next first-rounder he will work with.
Hill knows there will be no competition in terms of the depth chart. But he believes that playfully duking it out in practice, such as seeing who can have the best completion percentage during a week of practice, will help Bridgewater get better and Hill stay sharp — his top two priorities as the backup.
“It’s an interesting dynamic because you want to establish some kind of competitive spirit amongst the guys in the room,” said Hill, who made eight of his 34 career starts last season with the St. Louis Rams. “But you also understand your role. Teddy is the starter, but at the same time I’m going to be pushing him.”
Hill is looking forward to working with Bridgewater, but it was the 22-year-old who initiated first contact between the two, buzzing Hill’s phone not long after Hill agreed to terms.
“It was good to hear from him. I chatted with him a little bit,” Hill said. “And I’ll tell you what, everybody — and I’m not just talking people in this building, but people around the league that know him or met him — everybody had nothing but great things to say about him so that’s exciting for me as well.”Surely one of those people was Turner, whom Hill has known since his college days.
When Hill played at Maryland, Turner was the head coach in Washington, just a short drive down I-95. They started to form a relationship then, and after Hill went undrafted in 2002, he almost joined Turner in Miami but decided, just like he did over the weekend, that the Vikings presented the most pluses.
After four seasons and two regular-season snaps — both kneeldowns — in Minnesota, Hill was out of a job and close to being out of football when Turner brought him to San Francisco. “He stood on the table to get me there and really played a big part in me continuing my career,” Hill said.
Nine years later and against long odds, there Hill was at Winter Park on Wednesday, signing his two-year contract after passing his physical.It was another quiet day for the Vikings, who also announced the previously-reported contracts for defensive tackle Tom Johnson, guard Joe Berger, running back Matt Asiata and long snapper Cullen Loeffler. There is still work to be done for the Vikings, who are sorting through the second- and third-tier free agents left on the market. But finding a resourceful backup for Bridgewater was among their top priorities, and both the Vikings and Hill are happy that he and his wife chose to come back to Minnesota after taking their time to tally up the pros and cons.
“It’s certainly nice having the little three-day window that we had in free agency that we didn’t have in the past, just because it was good for me and my family and we really went through the whole process,” he said. “I will say, though, that I was very thrilled that Minnesota reached out.”