T.Y Hilton will hit unrestricted free agency this offseason. He has never played a down for any team other than the Indianapolis Colts, the organization that drafted him in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft. He witnessed the swift rise of Andrew Luck and the hole that was left following the star QB's sudden retirement.
Hilton has seen it all and right now can lay claim to being one of the longest-tenured members of the franchise, perhaps the longest after Anthony Castonzo announced his retirement. His run in Colt blue may be coming to an end, though; he spoke to Josina Anderson about his upcoming free agency and did not sound 100 percent certain he would be back in Indy by September of this year.
He hit all the right buzz words but the most important part is that a new deal has "gotta work both ways."
This is Hilton's last real chance to cash in as a player. He's 31 years-old and doesn't have many prime years left. Even "cashing in" is relative; Hilton is coming off an average season (below average by his standards), catching only 56 passes for 762 yards and five touchdowns. Some of that can be attributed to having to acclimate to a brand-new quarterback without the benefit of any practice time, but it's undeniable that Hilton has lost a step.
That doesn't mean he isn't any good. His Week 13 performance against the Houston Texans (eight catches for 110 yards and one TD) was reminiscent of his prime days with Andrew Luck that spanned across the middle of the decade. Hilton will be receiving interest and could even secure an above-market value deal given that there are not many top-tier free agent WRs expected to be available. Chris Godwin will probably re-up with the Bucs in some way, while Kenny Golladay and Allen Robinson will lead the market alongside him. Otherwise Hilton is probably the best of the bunch, and a lack of availability will push his price point higher.
The Colts know all that and know exactly what Hilton brings to the table. He could be invaluable as a safety net for whatever new QB they bring in. There's a chance they don't even let him out the door long enough for Hilton to see what kind of market he might have. But there's a better chance Hilton will find a deal too rich for Indy GM Chris Ballard's liking. We may have seen the last of Hilton in Indianapolis.