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Albert Breer on Colts’ Free Agent T.Y. Hilton: ‘The coaches love him, but there’s also a recognition that his legs may be going.’

NFL: New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

According to The MMQB’s Albert Breer, regarding Indianapolis Colts’ soon-to-be free agent veteran wideout T.Y. Hilton, ‘The (Colts) coaches love him, but there’s also a recognition that his legs may be going’:

“. . . [T]he first question will be whether T.Y. Hilton comes back. The 32-year-old’s been banged up and not quite as productive of late. But he’s plenty capable of being a good complementary piece, if Michael Pittman can become the No. 1 and Parris Campbell can find a way to stay healthy. My guess would be the Colts will let Hilton test the market, and whether he returns will ride on what’s out there for him. The coaches love him, but there’s also a recognition that his legs may be going.”

For what it’s worth, both team owner Jim Irsay and general manager Chris Ballard have publicly stated earlier this offseason that each would like to see Hilton ideally return in 2021.

However, each has also acknowledged the cold business side of it, and that the free agent market could dictate whether the beloved wide receiver ultimately re-signs with the Colts.

After all, the Colts have to be prudent about Hilton’s next contract, when he’s a diminutive, yet fast wide receiver, entering his 10th NFL season, who relies a lot on his legs and may be starting to ‘lose them’ a bit—having also battled some leg injuries the past few seasons.

The 31 year old wideout is coming off a 2020 season for the Colts in which he caught 56 receptions for 762 receiving yards (13.6 ypr. avg.) and 5 touchdown receptions during 15 starts. Hilton seemed to get hot during the season’s last stretch—catching all 5 of his touchdowns in the team’s final 6 games.

As consistently one of the game’s best deep threats, Hilton may have been negatively impacted by retired veteran quarterback Philip Rivers’ diminished arm strength downfield.

However, it still appears that a combination of father time and injuries have caught up with Hilton—having lost a half step, as he’s no longer a bonafide Pro Bowl caliber, #1 wideout for the Colts anymore—and that’s okay. It eventually happens to everyone at some point.

As Hilton continues to age into his early 30’s, he proved last season that he can transition into more of a complementary receiving role within the Colts offense—and that still has quality value for Indianapolis going forward.

Last time we heard, Hilton was ‘100% focused on free agency’ and noted that it takes two sides to tango and actually get a new deal done:

As one of the Colts franchise’s all-time receiver greats, Hilton ranks 3rd in receiving yards (9,360), 4th in receptions (608), and 4th (tied) in receiving touchdowns (50) in career numbers—as he’s one of the best wideouts to ever lace ‘em up for the Horseshoe.

It genuinely sounds like the Colts want Hilton to finish his distinguished pro career in the only NFL home he’s ever known, Indianapolis, but his impending free agent market will likely determine his imminent football future.