Training camps are blasting off this week for all 32 NFL clubs, and with some very notable free agents still available. There’s now one fewer on the table, as of Tuesday, with former All-Pro receiver Julio Jones set to join Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on a one-year deal. That’s one player who was never in consideration for the Indianapolis Colts, though, as general manager Chris Ballard made clear this week — though not shutting the door on a possible reunion with team legend T.Y. Hilton.
“I don’t usually talk about players acquired, but we have not had any discussions about Julio,” Ballard told The Indianapolis Star. “I know there’s reports out there, but those reports are wrong.”
But, when it comes to Hilton, Ballard is keeping an open mind.
“We’re still having those discussions,” said Ballard. “We’ve got time with whoever we add, whether it’s T.Y. or someone else, and T.Y. is still in the mix.”
Hilton, 32, is a former third-round pick of the Colts (2012) who spent his entire 10 NFL seasons with the Colts, going on to earn four Pro Bowl nods and finish as the league’s receiving yards leader in 2016. His trajectory was one that might still see him land in the team’s coveted Ring of Honor one day, but it was also mostly derailed by his recent and often battles with injury. As it stands, Hilton has delivered 9,691 receiving yards for the Colts and 53 touchdowns, numbers that could increase if he gets a chance to become a target for the new sheriff in town at quarterback — Matt Ryan.
It sounds as if Ballard would first like to see what the current roster offers up in camp, however, before pulling any trigger at the position in free agency.
“We like who we have,” he said. “Michael Pittman’s a good player. We kind of wash over this guy, sometimes I think the league does, but this dude’s good. We thought Parris [Campbell] had a great offseason. We drafted Alec Pierce, who we really like, and we thought he had a good offseason. Ashton Dulin just kind of gets overlooked, too, for what he brings.”
That said, Hilton’s number is still on Ballard’s speed dial.