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T.Y. Hilton on SI’s ‘Most Underpaid’ NFL Team


Somewhere the Indianapolis Colts T.Y. Hilton has to be smiling, and it’s not just because he’s a friendly ghost.

After all, the self-coined “Ghost” is coming off his 1st career Pro Bowl appearance with the Colts and is set to become a free agent at season’s end. Not only did Hilton just have a breakout season, but the 4th-year wideout was just named #35 on the NFL “Top 100”.

Dec 7, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (13) celebrates scoring the game winning touchdown against the Cleveland Browns during the fourth quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Cots won 25-24. Mandatory Credit: Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

If his agent Drew Rosenhaus needed leverage at the negotiating table, he doesn’t have to look very far to find it. The Colts would be wise to sign the diminutive, yet dangerous wideout for the long-term future.

As Luck’s favorite target, he’s coming off a season in which he had 82 receptions for 1,345 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns. The torch from Reggie Wayne to T.Y. Hilton was clearly passed last season, as the latter has became the team’s undisputed #1 wideout, joining a long list of former franchise greats.

While locking up Luck remains the team’s top priority, Hilton shouldn’t be too far behind. According to Sports Illustrated’s Will Laws, Hilton is on his most underpaid team for the upcoming season at wide receiver. He’s in the last year of his rookie contract and is playing on a contract that has just a $1.6 million cap hit:

"“Last year, Hilton ranked 15th in targets (132) and sixth in receiving yards (1,345), signaling his arrival as the new No. 1 wideout in Indy,” writes Laws. “Following in the footsteps of Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, the 5’9″ Hilton has some big shoes to fill. But he has the skills to establish the kind of relationship with Luck that Manning forged with his longtime targets.”“Hilton has the rare combination of skills that let him both consistently catch homerun balls while also shouldering a large load of targets,” added Laws. “Among wideouts with at least 60 receptions, Hilton ranked first in yards per reception (16.4) last season.”“Indianapolis is lucky that Hilton will only cost $1.6 million against their salary cap this season, but the former third-round pick’s rookie deal expires in the spring,” concluded Laws. “Signing Luck to an extension tops Colts GM Ryan Grigson’s to-do list for the next year, but re-upping with Hilton should also be a huge priority.”"

Unless you’re the Dallas Cowboys Dez Bryant, who’s currently holding out, it’s hard to disagree that Hilton is one of the most underpaid wideouts in the NFL at his current contract. As a former 3rd round pick out of Florida International in 2012, he lacks some of the big bonuses and guarantees that 1st round wideouts often get in their rookie contracts. However, he’s been every bit of that high caliber wideout.

Perhaps more debatable is at quarterback, where the Seattle Seahawks Russell Wilson took the nod over the Colts very own Andrew Luck. While the Wilson vs. Luck debate should assuredly run rabid for years to come, Wilson took the honors on SI’s underpaid team because of his $1.5 million salary compared to Luck’s $7 million for 2015:

"If you ask all 32 NFL general managers which quarterback they’d rather build around, the majority of them would take the prototypical Luck,” writes Laws. “Luck has been asked to carry the Colts from Day 1, and he certainly has the better statistical case as a true passer.”“But for now, Wilson gets the nod in this exercise,” added Laws. “The fact that the game’s premier dual-threat quarterback—a two-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion—will only make $1.5 million in salary next year (41st among QBs) is absurd. Luck is still a bargain at $7 million this season, but Wilson’s status as the quarterback with the most regular season wins in NFL history through his first three seasons (36) speaks for itself.”"

At least Laws acknowledges that Luck is the superior quarterback, even if he didn’t get the nod for most underpaid. He makes a fair point too that Wilson’s $1.5 million is absurd because that’s fairly low for how much a competent backup quarterback should reasonably make, let alone a young superstar quarterback, who’s already been a Super Bowl champion. However, the rest of the stats clearly don’t lie in portraying Luck as the better quarterback, even if he comes at a higher pay grade.

Whatever the case may be, this will assuredly be Hilton’s last season on the “Most Underpaid” team and perhaps even Luck’s last mention, who still has a $16.12 million team option for 2016. The two young Colts superstars are going to get paid sooner, rather than later by the team.

With all due respect, Mr. Irsay should be prepared to sign off on some pretty big checks. These two have clearly earned it. 

Jan 23, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) and receiver T.Y. Hilton (13) pose during team photos for the 2015 Pro Bowl at The Arizona Biltmore. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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