On the eve of the legal tampering period, it appears that two of the Colts’ top free agents will be permitted to speak with other clubs. As Stephen Holder of The Athletic writes, there has been little to no progress in Indianapolis’ contract talks with WR T.Y. Hilton and CB Xavier Rhodes.
With respect to Hilton, this report is not exactly surprising. The lifelong Colt might be third on the team’s all-time receiving yards list, but he is now 31 and has lost a step or two over the past several years. This offseason, owner Jim Irsay and GM Chris Ballard both spoke highly of Hilton while acknowledging that the market would dictate whether or not he would be back in Indy in 2021.
Still, Hilton’s 762 receiving yards in 2020 led the team, despite the fact that he did not get many touches early in the year and was not frequently targeted downfield by quarterback Philip Rivers. Even though there are a number of quality free agent wideouts who did not get the franchise tag, not many of them are clear upgrades over Hilton, and Ballard generally takes a cautious approach to outside FAs anyway. Plus, while the Colts will return promising youngsters Michael Pittman and Zach Pascal, they want to surround new QB Carson Wentz with as much skill position talent as possible.
All of that could point to a Hilton re-up, but it seems that Ballard will not be leading the charge in the bidding. If the decreased salary cap and the number of other FA receivers keep Hilton’s price down, he might be back in Indy. But if another team is willing to spend big, expect Ballard to look elsewhere.
Rhodes, meanwhile, washed out of Minnesota but experienced a rebirth in 2020 after signing a modest one-year, $3MM pact with the Colts last offseason. He yielded a completion percentage of just 51.2% and graded out as Pro Football Focus’ ninth-best CB, but according to Holder, there has been very little communication between Indianapolis and Rhodes’ camp. Ballard was burned the one time he made a major free agent investment at cornerback (Pierre Desir), so he could be on the lookout for another reclamation project like Rhodes.
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