The New York Jets are ready to add another offensive piece to the puzzle.
Zack Rosenblatt of The Athletic shared in an article posted on Wednesday, April 12 that Gang Green has “expressed interest” in veteran running back Dontrell Hilliard.
The holdup with other teams’ interest in the talented free agent is a serious neck injury the 28-year-old suffered last season.
Rosenblatt said NFL teams are “waiting” for Hilliard “to receive medical clearance.”
Dontrell Hilliard Could Be a Perfect Solution to Jets Problem
Hilliard initially entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent back in 2018. He spent the first three seasons of his career with the Cleveland Browns.
While the former Tulane product never started a game for the Browns he did appear in 30 career games.
He didn’t get much action on offense (only registered 22 carries), but Hilliard got plenty of work on special teams. In his two-and-a-half seasons there he played at least 51 percent of the snaps on special teams every year.
Hilliard was claimed off of waivers by the Houston Texans in 2020 but was only there for a cup of coffee.
Over the last two seasons, however, the talented runner has truly come out of his shell and has delivered for the Titans.
Hilliard has participated in 20 games and has made six starts during that run. He toted the rock 78 times for 495 rushing yards with six offensive touchdowns.
Natural Jets-Titans Coaching Connections
Hilliard’s connections to the Titans organization could come in handy during free agency.
Another thing that is incredibly attractive is Hilliard’s versatility.
The Tulane product has lined up as a running back, fullback, flexed-out tight end, and even wide receiver, per Pro Football Focus.
Rosenblatt labeled him as “an above-average pass catcher with 4.42 speed (in the 40-yard dash) and he averaged 6.3 yards per carry in Tennessee the last two years.”
The Jets have several other guys in the room but the big concern is Breece Hall’s ability to return to his pre-torn ACL form. There has been a ton of chatter that he’ll be ready for Week 1, but it might take a while to see that same level of explosiveness.
“The Jets would be smart to find another explosive running back to fill in for Hall in a pinch anyway,” Rosenblatt explained in his column for The Athletic.
Hilliard would be a relatively affordable option. The last contract he had with the Titans in 2022 featured a base salary of only $1.03 million. This would be a cost-effective option as someone who already knows the offensive system.
If we progress through the offseason and Hall is still further along than expected in his rehab you can simply move on from Hilliard. No harm, no foul.
However, he’d be a nice insurance policy just in case. A general manager’s job is to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
If Hall is ready to go that’s amazing, but you have to assume he won’t be ready. Hilliard would give you that nice warm tingly feeling at night knowing you’re covered just in case there’s a hiccup this offseason.