The thick of the NFL offseason has already arrived which means free agency will soon begin in earnest. Teams cannot contact unrestricted free agents until March 15, exactly two days before the start of the 2021 league year. However, news regarding the top players will circulate before the free agency officially kicks off, and this year’s market could feature big-name talents like Dak Prescott, Chris Godwin, Allen Robinson, and Kenny Golladay. The franchise tag will likely remove one or more from the open market, but more will reach free agency when the legal-tampering period opens.
2020 in review
After missing more than a third of the 2019 season, T.Y. Hilton returned to start 15 games this past year. While the Indianapolis Colts featured more weaponry than in past years — namely the additions of wideout Michael Pittman Jr. and running back Jonathan Taylor — Hilton remained the go-to option in the offense. quarterback Philip Rivers connected with Hilton 56 times for 762 yards and five touchdowns, each a top-2 mark on the team in 2020.
According to Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, coaches “love [Hilton], but there’s also a recognition that his legs may be going.” That could limit Hilton’s market to teams that don’t need a deep threat. The Green Bay Packers could make sense given the lack of established wideouts behind All-Pro Davante Adams, though their salary-cap limitations make a deal difficult to envision without significant roster reconstruction. The New York Jets have more cap space and could use somebody to help out Sam Darnold or a quarterback they draft with the No. 2 overall pick. And, of course, the New England Patriots love to bargain shop the veteran market and could use a player with Hilton’s skill set.
Do the Colts want to keep him?
At least publicly, the Colts have expressed interest in bringing Hilton back for the 2021 season. Head coach Frank Reich told reporters Thursday that he hopes the veteran wideout “can end his career as a Colt.” Earlier in February, Hilton told ESPN’s Josina Anderson that while a new contract would have to “work both ways,” he believes Indianapolis still has interest in his services.
Even before injuries limited his availability, Hilton’s productivity noticeably waned after he turned 30. And regardless of where he lands, the wideout will work with his third starting quarterback in the past three seasons.
All of which makes Hilton’s projections difficult. He will probably serve as a starting receiver in 2021 and have a floor of a fantasy WR3 if he stays healthy, but playing with new Colts signal-caller Carson Wentz provides a much different upside than doing so with, say, Aaron Rodgers.
Other than the Colts, no team has surfaced as a serious suitor for Hilton, though that should change as the start of free agency approaches.