The Indianapolis Colts are bringing back veteran wide receiver T.Y. Hilton for the 2021 season, which gives them a key leader at the position as the team transitions to a new quarterback in Carson Wentz.
One thing i kno about this city. Is that they love me. And i love them. I listen to all the songs. I read all the tweets. I will cherish this forever . It’s only right i finish what i started. #TYISHOME pic.twitter.com/PEfV5YoHIa— TY Hilton (@TYHilton13) March 24, 2021
With Parris Campbell entering his third NFL season having recorded only 24 career receptions and Michael Pittman Jr. going into his sophomore campaign, the Colts’ prospective top two receivers were going to be asked to do a lot if they were to be the top two options in coach Frank Reich’s passing game.
While Pittman showed promise as a rookie and Campbell has flashed his trademark explosiveness in the nine games he has played, Indianapolis has a lot of unproven players in its receiving corps. Hilton is anything but unproven.
It’s true that Hilton isn’t quite the speed demon and lethal deep threat he once was, yet there’s still some productive football left for the 31-year-old. In fact, the Colts’ quarterback situation hasn’t exactly been great of late, with Jacoby Brissett making 15 starts in 2019 and the recently retired Philip Rivers playing his last season in 2020.
Back when he actually had a QB who could launch the ball downfield on a regular basis, Hilton’s stats were excellent, as he had 1,270 yards receiving in 14 games during the 2018 campaign. Unfortunately, that proved to be Andrew Luck’s final year before his abrupt retirement.
Although Wentz is coming off a disastrous year in Philadelphia, he actually wants to be in Indianapolis and has no shortage of arm talent. Hilton embracing Wentz and getting on the same page with him while continuing to mentor the younger wideouts in Pittman and Campbell makes him such a great, unifying force for the 2021 Colts.
Well, the pursuit of a veteran receiver is something general manager Chris Ballard can cross off his list — unless he’s pulling off a double dip in that regard.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Sammy Watkins was meeting with the Colts on Wednesday. Presumably, bringing back Hilton means Watkins will leave town without striking a deal, but then again, Indy has plenty of salary-cap space to make it happen.
Surrounding Wentz with enough weapons and experienced players is a luxury he didn't have in his final couple seasons with the Eagles. It probably wouldn’t hurt to add a talent like Watkins to the mix, especially since it’d hurt the reigning AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs.
As for other prospective roster upgrades, well, the offensive line that protects Wentz should be relatively strong, with the exception of uncertainty at left tackle.
Anthony Castonzo retired, so Ballard is either going to take his successor in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft or pursue someone else on the open market. Either way, that position must be addressed.
It’s a pretty solid tackle class. Although the Colts will miss out on top prospects like Penei Sewell and Rashawn Slater since they aren’t picking until No. 21 overall, they might be able to draft someone like Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw or Texas product Samuel Cosmi. Otherwise, players like Russell Okung or Alejandro Villanueva make sense in free agency.
Strong pass protection is vital to get the most out of Hilton’s knack for hauling in the deep ball, too, so it’d behoove Ballard to bolster the trenches for the four-time Pro Bowler’s sake, too.