In the first contract-related Pittsburgh Steelers news in some time, ESPN Senior NFL Insider Adam Schefter reports that cornerback Mike Hilton has signed his second-round tender.
Hilton will earn $3.259 million in 2020 and become an unrestricted free agent in 2021, unless he signs a contract extension before then, as he hopes to do.
The timing is not coincidental, because under the collective bargaining agreement teams have the right to reduce their restricted free agent offers beginning next week.
Mike Hilton’s Career with the Steelers
Hilton is entering his fourth season with the Steelers and serves as the team’s slot corner. He has played in at least 15 games in each of his three seasons, recording at least 53 tackles each year. He also has 4 career interceptions and 6.5 career sacks, indicative of his ability to rush the passer, not to mention his penchant for covering shifty slot receivers. Hi 22 tackles for loss are second-most in the NFL among defensive backs since he entered the NFL; his 6.5 sacks are fourth-most among DBs since he entered the league.
The Steelers placed the second-round tender on the restricted free agent back in mid-March. The move ensured that the team would receive compensation in the form of a second-round draft pick in the event that another club made an offer to Hilton and the Steelers decided not to match it.
Hilton entered the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars, signing as an undrafted rookie free agent on May 1, 2016. But he never appeared in a game with the Jaguars, and recently told Steelers.com that he truly feels at home in Pittsburgh.
“I feel like I am a true definition of a Pittsburgh Steeler,” Hilton said. “I am a grinder. Nothing comes easy. I would love to spend the rest of my career here,” he added, before saying, “I want to help bring the Steelers a championship [and] I want to stay as long as possible. I am trying to show everybody I want to be here.”
Mike Hilton’s College Career at Ole Miss
Mike Hilton went undrafted in 2016—in fact, according to ESPN.com and Rotoworld, he wasn’t even invited to the NFL combine—thanks to his small frame. Hilton is just 5-foot-9 and listed at just 184 pounds, but his production in college foreshadowed his NFL production.
In his last year in college, Hilton “was a Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist who led SEC defensive backs with 12.5 TFL… He added two interceptions, 13 breakups and 15 passes defensed…. He [also] won the Chucky Mullins Courage Award, which goes to the Rebel defender who best blends courage, leadership, perseverance and determination.”
Most notably, perhaps, is that Hilton has succeeded where Senquez Golson did not. In 2015 the Steelers spent a second-round draft pick on Golson (56th overall), also from the University of Mississippi. But thanks to a succession of injuries, Golson never played a down for the Steelers and is now out of football.
Hilton’s salary cap hit in 2020 will be $3.259 million.
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