Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard and head coach Frank Reich have both expressed how much they would like wide receiver T.Y. Hilton to return for one more season this fall. Hilton has also said he’d love to come back to Indianapolis
But senior writer Stephen Holder of The Athletic reports the situation is far more complicated than that.
Holder wrote that all options, including a return to the Indianapolis Colts, signing with a new team, and retirement, are on the table for Hilton. Indianapolis prefers to sign him to another deal, but the team has a plethora of young receivers they are trying to develop and are probably not willing to overspend for an older receiver.
Add it all together, and it appears that Hilton and the Colts are not close to agreeing on a new contract.
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How T.Y. Hilton Fits With the Colts
On the surface, the fit seems obvious. Hilton has played his entire 10-year career with the Colts. He is third in receiving yards, tied for third in catches and fourth in receiving touchdowns in franchise history.
Even with new quarterback Matt Ryan, Hilton will fit into Reich’s offense, which the veteran receiver has played in since 2018. Despite turning 32 years old, Hilton should also compete with the Colts very inexperienced wideouts for playing time.
Indianapolis’ only wide receiver on the roster to record more than 400 receiving yards in a single season is Michael Pittman Jr.
Hilton has recorded seven 800-yard seasons in his career. But Hilton hasn’t posted more than 800 yards in a season since 2018. Last year, he registered a career-low 23 catches for 331 yards and three touchdowns.
Hilton dealt with a neck injury early in the season. But even when he returned, he averaged only 2.3 receptions per game.
The Colts might be better off playing younger receivers and hoping for improvement throughout the fall rather than counting on an aging veteran.
“This is why the Colts are not rushing into a decision [on Hilton],” Holder wrote. “They are still in the early stages of evaluating their receivers and the unit’s collective development in 2022.”
“In a best-case scenario — the young receivers pan out and Campbell can stay healthy — Hilton’s role could be minimal,” Holder wrote. “It isn’t so much that he would play behind the young backups. It’s that the young backups might also be deserving of playing time, and there are only so many snaps to go around.”
Salary Cap Ramifications of Signing T.Y. Hilton
Holder also reports that negotiations with the Colts last offseason “were not particularly easy” and things won’t be any different this year. In 2021, it took Colts owner Jim Irsay stepping in to increase the team’s offer to avoid Hilton leaving for a multi-year deal with the Baltimore Ravens.
The veteran receiver played for $8 million last year, but the wide receiver market has exploded this offseason. It’s possible Hilton will ask for more money because of the market. But it’s also reasonable to believe the Colts will seek to pay Hilton less than $8 million because he’s a year older and coming off the worst statistical season of his career.
There’s also intangibles that Hilton offers, particularly for the Colts. Even if he doesn’t produce more, the veteran receiver grew into a leadership role last year. He would be a great voice for the team’s young wideouts.
“I don’t really talk much,” Hilton told The Athletic in January. “I love to play. But when I talk, people listen. … I’m just happy that I’m someone they can look up to and I’m going to continue being that leader for them.”
It’s hard to place a price tag on intangibles.
Nevertheless, Hilton returning to play for the Colts again is definitely still a possibility. The deal is just not imminent.