Colts: T.Y. Hilton still in play at WR, but Julio Jones is not – IndyStar

WESTFIELD — The Colts have not ruled out adding a veteran to one of the youngest groups of wide receivers in the NFL.
Indianapolis legend T.Y. Hilton remains a possibility. Former Falcons superstar Julio Jones, who spent most of his career catching passes from new Colts starting quarterback Matt Ryan in Atlanta, is not.
But the Colts have not closed the door on adding an experienced receiver to a group that has little NFL track record beyond emerging star Michael Pittman Jr. and former Texan Keke Coutee, who spent last season on the practice squad.
Indianapolis took flyers on two young wide receivers Tuesday, signing former Dolphins receiver Isaiah Ford and former Buccaneers and Chargers practice squad member John Hurst, but the Colts haven’t ruled out making a move for a player with a long history in the league. Indianapolis released undrafted free agent wide receiver Kekoa Crawford and undrafted defensive tackle Caeveon Patton to make room for the two young guys.
Ford caught 45 passes for 497 yards and two touchdowns in four seasons with the Dolphins.
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“We’re still having those discussions,” Colts general manager Chris Ballard said. “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, the 32-year-old who is coming off of 23 catches in 10 games last season, still wants to play and remains a free agent. Jones, who caught 31 passes in 10 games with the Titans in 2021, is also a free agent and has often been linked to the Colts given his history with Ryan.
But Jones does not sound like a possibility.
“I don’t usually talk about players acquired, but we have not had any discussions about Julio,” Ballard said. “I know there’s reports out there, but those reports are wrong.”
Ballard has left the door open to adding a veteran, particularly Hilton, throughout the offseason, but he’s also repeatedly pushed back on the idea that the Colts don’t have enough talent at receiver, despite the lack of career production.
Indianapolis hasn’t brought back Hilton yet and allowed a core member of the wide receiver rotation, Zach Pascal, to sign with Philadelphia this offseason, and the Colts made only one significant move to replace those two players from a group that produced just one player, Pittman Jr., with more than 385 receiving yards last season.
The Colts used their first pick of the draft, a second-rounder, to draft Cincinnati’s Alec Pierce, and Pierce is expected to play a significant role.  
But Ballard refuses to buy the argument that the cupboard is bare at wide receiver.
“We like who we have,” Ballard 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 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.”
Indianapolis is also counting heavily on receiving production from satellite back Nyheim Hines, who opened training camp on Tuesday by saying his goal in 2021 is to set a career high for catches.
Hines’ previous high for receptions is 63, accomplished in both 2018 and 2020.
“I’d like to have an opportunity to help this team win, and I know (Colts head coach Frank Reich) will put me in position to help this team win when my number is called,” Hines said.
From what the Colts have said throughout the offseason, Hines is going to have a chance to reach that goal as a featured receiver in the offense, a development in play because of the presence of Ryan, who has always been able to find running backs in the passing game.
Ryan is one of the reasons Indianapolis believes its young receiving corps can take the next step. A natural leader who elevated receivers during his time in Atlanta, Ryan could help players emerge.
The way the roster is constructed, the Colts need a young player to emerge, not just from the top four, but from a group that hasn’t done much in Indianapolis so far, including Coutee, 2020 sixth-round pick Dezmon Patmon, DeMichael Harris and second-year receiver Michael Strachan, who will likely miss most of training camp after offseason surgery on his knee.
No matter how much potential the young Colts receiving corps might have, there remains little proven about anybody beyond Pittman Jr. as training camp opens.
Ballard’s not sure that means the Colts’ young receivers won’t rise to the opportunity in front of them.
“I just don’t see quite the desperation,” Ballard said. “It’d be easy for me to go sign a name for (the media), and you guys would write these beautiful stories, and then when that guy didn’t play well, the flip would be incredible. … Have some patience. Let us work through it.”

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Christopher Jones
Christopher Jones
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