With the exception of slot cornerback Mike Hilton, it would appear that the Pittsburgh Steelers have relatively few pressing contract concerns to worry about this offseason. But unlike the saga that accompanied negotiations with Le’Veon Bell over the past few years, it seems that Hilton has no intention of inflicting that sort of drama on the organization in 2019.
When speaking to reporters during mandatory minicamp this week, the cornerback dismissed any notion of holding out from training camp when it opens on July 25, as reported by Joe Rutter of TribLive.
“That hasn’t even crossed my mind. I’m here for the team. I’m going to be here and try to help the team win games.”
Originally set to be an exclusive rights free agent in 2019, Hilton was due to earn $645,000 under the terms of his tender, but has yet to sign the one-year deal in hopes of a long-term offer from Pittsburgh. And while the Steelers are under no obligation to even entertain a new contract this year, Hilton remains hopeful that the front office will respond to his request the same way they did to Alejandro Villanueva in 2017 when he was an ERFA looking for a similar commitment. A player the cornerback has also spoken to for advice this offseason.
“I actually had a couple conversations with Al. Just how he went about doing it and how he approached it. Having that conversation with him, he kind of broke it down to me and kind of gave me a blueprint of how to go about it.”
“It worked out for (Villanueva) in the long run. We’ll see how it turns out in the next month or so. I’m doing all I can to be here and to show them I want to be here.”
Villanueva was rewarded with a new four-year deal worth $24 million as training camp began that year, and Hilton would clearly welcome something similar this time around. However, Pittsburgh had a bit more salary cap space to work with that year when compared to the $984,968 they currently have available.
While Kenny Moore of the Indianapolis Colts became the highest paid slot cornerback in the league on Thursday after agreeing to a four-year deal that could be worth as much as $36 million, Hilton will not command anywhere near that amount. But it should not be expected that his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, will allow him to sign on the cheap either.
Ultimately, it would not be a complete surprise if the front office declined to offer him a deal this year, but with an assurance that they will take care of him in 2020 when he is due to be a restricted free agent. A move that although far from ideal from Hilton’s perspective, would be easier for the team to swallow financially.