INDIANAPOLIS – One more contract with the Colts, preferably of the multi-year length, and then it’ll be time for T.Y. Hilton to call it a career.
That’s the plan for the 30-year-old Hilton as he embarks on a 9th NFL season this fall.
“I want to be a Colt for life,” Hilton said on Wednesday, from his home in Florida, as he participates virtually in the Colts offseason program..
“But it takes two sides. It’s up to Mr. Irsay and Chris (Ballard) to get the job done. For me, I want to be a Colt. So you heard it from me…Whatever I sign for on my next contract, that’ll be when I hang it up. Whether it’s 2 years, 3 years, 4 years, whatever I sign for on my next contract, that’ll be it for me.”
If Hilton and the Colts do not agree to an extension before the start of the 2020 campaign, it will be the first time he will be playing a season in a contract year.
Hilton says the Colts and his representation had some extension talks before the COVID-19 pandemic sent everyone to their respective homes earlier this spring.
“Whenever things pick back up, hopefully we can get something done,” Hilton said.
“My work speaks for itself. When I’m there, I know what I can do. These last two years, I’ve been a little banged up. This year, if they want me to prove it, I’ll prove it. I think everybody would want me here and I want to be here.”
The 2019 season was easily the most challenging of Hilton’s now 9-year career.
That Hall of Fame-like production Hilton produced from 2012-18 came to a halt last year.
After battling through a couple of lower body injuries in 2018, a couple of different ones arose in 2019, forcing Hilton to miss 6 games (he had missed a total of 4 games in his first 7 NFL seasons).
When Hilton was on the field last season, he suffered career lows in yards per game (50.1, career average was 74.9) and yards per reception (11.1, career average was 15.9 yards).
Quarterback play was easily one of the worst of Hilton’s career, yet even the 4-time Pro Bowler couldn’t come down with key second-half catches in a critical Thursday night loss to the Texans.
“Motivation (for 2020) is I let my teammates down last year by being hurt, being injured, things you really can’t control,” Hilton says. “It’s not like you are playing Madden again and cut injuries off. My main thing now is getting my body back the way it is. Towards the end of last season, I was 100 percent. Just staying on top of my game, working out twice a day so I don’t let my teammates down and so I’m out there doing what I’m doing and just helping them out the best way I can. My motivation is to go out and get back to where I was and that’s on top of the game.
“I missed a lot of games last year and that’s something that can’t happen. Because I know my teammates need me on the field.”
Year Nine for Hilton has him in a contract year for the first time in his career. He originally signed this current 5-year deal in 2015, a month before the final season of his rookie deal began.
If Hilton can get back to his normal health in 2020, giving him that multi-year deal next spring would make a lot of sense.
Currently, Hilton is due $14.5 million in 2020. The franchise tag at wide receiver was $17.8 million for this season.
Hilton believes an All-Pro type of season is possible for him in 2020, as he now works with Philip Rivers. Hilton says the two plan on getting together this offseason to throw.
The day after Hilton’s (and the Colts) season to forget ended last year, Frank Reich doubled down on what needed to change.
“You just want to get him the ball more,” Reich said of Hilton. “If we’re going to fulfill our vision and win the games that we want to win, he has to be at the center of it. We are still going to be a run-the-ball team, but T.Y. has to be at the center of it.
“He is a great player and it is our responsibility to get him involved and get him the ball.”
Defining Hilton’s value and importance to the Colts must include the team’s record when he’s sidelined.
The Colts are 1-9 in games without Hilton (1-5 last season), with a home win over Jacksonville being their only victory when No. 13 has been inactive.
If Hilton gets back to having a 1,000-yard season this fall, he will join Larry Fitzgerald, Antonio Brown, Julian Edelman and Julio Jones as the only 30-plus year old wideouts to do that in the last 3 years.
Hilton turns 31 this November.
Will he be signing a third, and final, contract with Indianapolis?