According to The Athletic’s Zak Keefer, Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton believes he’s close to breaking out, and the pending free agent is not thinking about his long-term future with the only NFL franchise he’s ever known:
Veteran Colts receiver TY Hilton, who believes he's "close" to a breakout game, says he's not thinking about his uncertain future in Indianapolis. He'll be a free agent at year end for the first time.— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) October 29, 2020
"My work speaks for itself. If they want me back, they want me back."
The 30 year old wide receiver is having an unusually quiet season for the Colts nearly midway through a contract season, catching just 20 receptions for 242 receiving yards (12.1 ypr. avg.) and 0 touchdown receptions (although he has drawn a few defensive pass interference penalties and had some big plays wiped out because of flags on the Colts offense).
The thought was that with a more accurate, efficient passer, veteran quarterback Philip Rivers, who’s shown a willingness to air it out deep throughout his career that Hilton would have a rebound season for the Colts in 2020—following a prior 2019 season that was limited by injuries and starting quarterback play.
So far, that simply hasn’t happened though.
If there’s reason for some optimism, per NFL next generation stats, Hilton’s cushion (5.4 yards per snap), which measures the yards that separate him from the defender at the snap, and his separation (2.6 yards per snap), which measures the distance between the nearest defender at the time of the catch or incompletion compares favorably to the Kansas City Chiefs blazing fast wideout Tyreek Hill in cushion (5.5 yards per snap) and to Minnesota Vikings prized rookie Justin Jefferson on separation (2.5 yards per snap)—so his underlying metrics are still solid, and it appears opposing secondaries still respect his deep speed.
The former 2012 3rd round pick of the Colts is one of the team’s longest active tenured players and ranks as follows all-time in franchise history: 4th in receiving yards (8,840), 4th in receptions (572), and 7th in touchdowns (45) respectively.
Hilton is a true ‘Horseshoe guy’ through and through and has been one of the Colts’ all-time receiver greats—and should be heavily considered for a ‘Ring of Honor’ nod down the road.
That being said, he hasn’t been all that productive over the past two seasons for his sizeable cap hit. For a diminutive wideout (5’10”, 183 pounds), who relies on his dangerous deep speed and explosiveness, yet has suffered a number of recent leg injuries, the Colts may have to be cautious with any next potential contract with the franchise—especially as Hilton ages into his early 30’s.
Colts general manager Chris Ballard faces a difficult decision on how to proceed with a veteran franchise great, soon-to be free agent, but at the same time, Hilton’s lack of production right now is making his decision a whole lot easier for him—especially when Chicago Bears wideout Allen Robinson, who’s younger (27) and recently more productive, is set to become a prized free agent during the 2021 offseason along with Hilton.
The NFL is a bottomline “what have you done for me lately” business, and sometimes, tough decisions have to be made—even for standout veterans who have done a lot for the franchise such as Hilton (but really, if the Colts can move on from Peyton Manning, it can happen to literally anyone at any time).
Still, perhaps around Halloween, ‘the Ghost’s breakout’ is set to happen, as soon as this weekend against the Detroit Lions—and he can make Ballard contemplate on his future a lot harder the rest of the season by being more productive with some highlight reel plays.