On Monday, the Dallas Cowboys signed four-time Pro Bowl receiver T.Y. Hilton to a one-year deal. The veteran worked out at The Star on Monday and signed with the team a few hours later. Having not played all season, Hilton says he is “definitely fresh” and looks forward to bringing veteran leadership to the Cowboys.
Hilton has spent a couple of 10-hour days at the Cowboys' practice facility this week with much of that time being dedicated to learning the offense. Head coach Mike McCarthy says Hilton is physically ready, but learning the language of the offense is where he'll need the most work.
“Obviously, he's been working all year, so he’s in great shape medically,” McCarthy said, “The biggest thing for him will be the language, which it always is with new opportunities.”
The Right Situation
Both McCarthy and Hilton seem excited about the timing of this signing. Although it is late in the season, McCarthy explained, “The timing was right and he’s ready to go. He’s an excellent addition, especially this time of year. I’ve never had the experience of adding the quality of a player like T.Y. Hilton to your roster in December. That’s very unique.”
As for the Cowboys' newest receiver, he says the timing is perfect. Hilton took time off this year to spend more time with his kids and watch their games. Now that their seasons are over, he's ready to get back to work. “I got a lot of calls,” said Hilton, “I told my agent if I get the right call, right team, right situation — I'm interested. I feel like this is the right situation for me.”
The Cowboys' 10-3 record as well the prospect of being another weapon to boost the teams' chances at playoff success this season played big roles in Hilton visiting North Texas. Despite the numerous calls, the Cowboys are the only team for which Hilton worked out. “[The team's record played a] big role,” he said. “You want to go to a situation you feel is good, feel like you can win. I feel like they got all the pieces. [They can] just plug me in to help them try to get over the hump.”
Hilton definitely has motivation to help the Cowboys get over the proverbial hump. According to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, Hilton will get $600,000 guaranteed for the remainder of the regular season and nearly $700,000 in playoff incentives. The maximum value of the deal is $1.5 million.
What Hilton Brings to the Table
Hilton (5'10”, 183 lbs) was the Indianapolis Colts' third-round pick in 2012. As Andrew Luck's No. 1 target, he recorded five 1,000-yard seasons and made four Pro Bowls, but his production declined somewhat once Luck left the Colts. Hilton's most productive season after that point was in 2020 with Philip Rivers as the Colts' QB. He caught 56 passes for 762 yards and 5 touchdowns that year.
It seems Dallas felt they could use a player like Hilton to help its passing attack. Rookies Jalen Tolbert and KaVontae Turpin haven't provided much. Veteran James Washington made his season debut on Sunday against the Texans but was targeted only once out of the 11 offensive snaps he played. The Cowboys' receiver group currently ranks 17th in yards per reception this season and 20th in first downs per target.
Hilton is known for making his biggest impact in the middle of the field and for finding soft spots in zone coverage. The Cowboys are hoping to see the type of route running ability that earned him the nickname “The Ghost” because of his ability to disappear behind a defense.
When speaking to 105.3 The Fan in Dallas, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said of Hilton, “He’s really one of the smartest receivers that I can remember.”
“We got a lot of position flex with him,” Jones said. “I would say that he’s got that step, but he also brings a ton of experience. That’s big, real big. Because we want him to step in immediately, and these guys that have played a lot of football in the NFL have a good chance of doing that. He’s seen the kinds of routes that we’re going to run. He has seen them time and time again in the NFL, and there in Indianapolis. So, I think he’s a real pickup for us that will frankly hit the ground running and immediately give us some help.”
The addition of a smart, sure-handed, elusive veteran receiver is generating a lot of excitement around the idea of what offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and quarterback Dak Prescott might be able to do offensively going forward. With the expectation of immediate help and knowledge of what he's done in the past, there's a lot of interest in how Moore might mix things up. There's also curiosity about what we might see from Prescott who has been adamant about remaining aggressive with the passing game.
As for Hilton, when asked what he does best he summed up his proficiency in two simple words, “Make plays.”