According to general manager Chris Ballard on Tuesday, Indianapolis Colts soon-to-be free agent wide receiver T.Y. Hilton wants to play again in 2022—although whether he’ll return to the Horseshoe remains fluid, as both sides will talk again:
“So, I had a good talk with T.Y. after the season,” Ballard said at the NFL Combine during his presser. “As a couple of weeks ago, yes, he wanted to play again. We will talk again.”
“And T.Y. can still play. Like I want to make that (clear), I know unfortunately he got hurt for half the season, but T.Y. can still play. One, because he’s about as smart as any player I’ve ever been around. I mean he just understands how to play the game. Even though his skill-set might not be quite the same as it was three to four years ago, his instincts and level of competence in terms of understanding what’s happening, he knows how to play.”
Having battled through injuries—including one requiring initial season neck surgery, the 10-year veteran was limited to just 23 receptions for 331 receiving yards (14.4 ypr. avg.) and 3 touchdown receptions during 10 games (9 starts) in 2021.
In some respects, it’s clear that father time has caught up some to one of the Colts’ all-time receiver greats, but he also suffered from inconsistent starting quarterback play last season.
While Hilton can still provide value as a proven deep threat, it appears that the Colts need a clear upgrade at their starting WR2 spot on the other side of Michael Pittman Jr. entirely.
That’s not a knock on Hilton, who’s one of the best Colts to ever catch it, but this is an offense that needs more juice, explosion, and big play ability—and even consistent production, then it’s gotten in more recent years in the receiving game collectively.
The question then is where does that exactly leave Hilton?
For a 32 year old veteran who’s in the twilight of his accomplished playing career, he can’t afford to fall too far on the wide receiver depth chart—because he won’t be playing special teams any time soon, which is a requirement for the majority of the league’s backup wideouts.
He can still provide value to an NFL offense, but it gets a little complicated with the Colts.