Despite lack of cap space, Saints could still keep tight end Josh Hill, Sean Payton says _lowres

New Orleans Saints tight end Josh Hill (89) celebrates a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears Monday, Dec. 15, 2014, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh) ORG XMIT: CXB126

The Chicago Bears are making a strong play to steal restricted free agent Josh Hill away from the New Orleans Saints.

Chicago has reportedly offered the tight end a three-year deal worth up to $7.5 million, with $3.5 million guaranteed.

But Hill’s departure is no foregone conclusion, despite the Saints’ lack of cap space.

“I wouldn’t count on that,” Saints head coach Sean Payton said. “The good news is we control that for five days.”

New Orleans offered Hill a 1-year, $1.67 million tender that guaranteed the Saints have the right of first refusal.

And even with the Saints opening the day with just $1.298 million in cap space, Payton thinks New Orleans might be able to find the money in the coming days.

“Mickey and I spoke about it last night, and we’ll talk in-depth, probably today,” Payton said. “The good news is we have time here to look at what you want to do and how to manuever to do it.”

— Advocate reporter Nick Underhill interviewed Payton at the NFL owner’s meetings in Florida.