Negotiations with the Indianapolis Colts on a contract extension for wide receiver T.Y. Hilton were intense and ongoing during training camp at a college campus about one hour’s drive north of the team headquarters.
The agent was motivated to get his client paid because Hilton will receive $1.5 million in 2015, the final year of his rookie deal. Rosenhaus saw this as risky for both sides because he’s seen players get hurt and he’s also had clients decide not to sign and try to land a more lucrative deal in free agency.
The Colts saw an opportunity to lock up a Pro Bowl wide receiver for five years instead of risking the possibility of Hilton’s price tag going up after this season, either before or after free agency began. A larger salary cap for 2016 meant the wide receiver could have commanded more than the $65 million, $39 million guaranteed that Hilton received in Thursday’s contract extension.
“I know it’s a cliche,” Rosenhaus said Thursday, “but this really is a win-win.”
The Wednesday night meeting to consummate the deal involved Rosenhaus, his brother Jason (Rosenhaus Sports Representation vice president), Colts director of football administration Mike Bluem, Colts vice president/general counsel Dan Emerson and Colts general manager Ryan Grigson.
“That was a big deal to get the five of us together, and we were able to find a deal that makes sense for the team and makes sense for T.Y.,” Drew Rosenhaus said. “And again, what’s really unique about this is getting a deal done after three years.
“I really did want to get a deal done because he’s only making $1.5 million this year, OK? And that’s a big risk, for a guy to go out every day and put that on the line for that kind of money. So we’re relieved we got a deal done.”
The Colts traded up to select Hilton in the third round of the 2012 NFL draft. The Florida International University star was highly touted for his amazing speed in running a 4.34-second 40-yard dash. He’s been the team’s No. 1 receiver in each of the past two seasons and went to his first Pro Bowl in February.
“This was a priority for both sides, but for a time, it looked like he was going to play his contract out, and that would have been unfortunate because he has something special here,” Rosenhaus said. “They drafted him, it’s rare to find a player like that, it’s rare to draft a guy and keep him. (Colts quarterback) Andrew Luck is one of the great players in the game. He and T.Y. have a special combination.
“And on top of that, free agency next year is going to be very lucrative. Guys who get into free agency are going to get huge deals. The cap is going to be, in my opinion, over $150 million. It’s the final year where teams have to spend almost 90 percent of their cap. It means a lot of money is going to be out there. It might have been hard for the Colts to keep T.Y. He doesn’t want to leave. So we were able to find a good compromise.”
Rosenhaus reinforced the guaranteed money was key. Hilton’s $39 million guaranteed is the second-largest amount for an NFL wide receiver, according to overthecap.com. His agent said Hilton is now the fourth-highest-paid wide receiver in the league after the Detroit Lions’ Calvin Johnson, the Dallas Cowboys’ Dez Bryant and the Denver Broncos Demaryius Thomas.
“The key in getting extensions done is finding a deal that makes sense for the player and for the team,” Rosenhaus said. “What made sense for us is $39 million guaranteed instead of $1.5 (million). And not risking that, OK? Because we might have gotten more in free agency but we might get a lot less. I’ve had guys get injured in this league, so I know all too well what happens.
“On the other hand, for the Colts, it was a stroke of genius for them because they keep a guy now and it’s structured in a way that they feel comfortable that they can maintain him and this team and they don’t have to compete with him in free agency or franchise him. So kudos to the Colts.”
Some thought the Colts might have gained leverage by selecting wide receiver Phillip Dorsett in the first round in May. But Colts owner Jim Irsay said re-signing Hilton and offensive left tackle Anthony Castonzo were top priorities. During an appearance at a camp practice last week, Irsay said he hoped the deals could get done by the end of August.
“This has been a long time coming,” Hilton said. “I want to thank Mr. Irsay and (GM Ryan) Grigson for letting me be a part of this organization for years to come.
“I love being here. This is a dream come true.”
The Colts announced the extension in an email at 7:48 a.m. Thursday.
“I didn’t want to go into the season with it on my mind,” Hilton said. “I’m ready to play now. I’ve been coming to practice, just giving it my all and I’m going to continue to give it my all.”
Hilton has 18 100-yard receiving games in his three-year NFL career, four shy of the league record set by Randy Moss. His speed and ability to get open, sometimes when double-covered, made him a player the Colts didn’t want to lose in free agency.
Hilton caught 82 passes in each of the past two seasons for a career-high 1,345 yards last season and 1,083 yards in 2013. He has 20 career touchdowns, 19 receiving and one on a punt return.
“There’s no place I’d rather be than here,” Hilton said.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.