Browns should trade for T.Y. Hilton

T.Y. Hilton Indianapolis Colts

Unlike it’s MLB or NBA brethren, the NFL trade deadline day usually goes by without much movement. There is no need for tracking planes or #hugwatch or eye ball emojis on Twitter. Most of the deals that get done via trade are made in the offseason with a focus on draft day while the occasional midseason move made to get someone some depth (Knile Davis to Green Bay last year) or to remove a disgruntled vet from a team (Marcell Dareus to Jacksonville last week) getting done. Just because something doesn’t *usually* happen doesn’t mean it shouldn’t. In the last 12 hours alone, we’ve seen Jimmy Garoppolo head to San Francisco while the Philadelphia Eagles shored up their running game by acquiring Jay Ajaiyi from the Miami Dolphins. The Cleveland Browns should follow suit and bolster one of their weakest positions by trading for wide receiver T.Y. Hilton.

A year ago on deadline day, the Browns stunned the NFL world by trading a third-round pick to the New England Patriots to acquire former Pro Bowl linebacker, Jamie Collins. The move was such a shock given the magnitude of the player traded but also the value Cleveland had previously (and continually) shown for their draft picks. Collins had made the Pro Bowl for New England in 2015 and, by all means of measurement, seemed to be on the path of being a cornerstone for Bill Belichick’s Pats for years to come. Belichick had soured on Collins due to reported personality issues and diva-like behavior. Couple this with an impending free agency and the Browns’ front office swooped in and acquired the would be starter by giving up only a third-round pick in the 2017 draft. Collins played well as a Brown, with 48 tackles, two sacks and one forced fumble in eight games started and resigned with Cleveland for four years and $50 million. It’s possible that Sashi Brown and the front office see a similar situation brewing with Hilton and the Indianapolis Colts.

The Colts faced an uphill battle to reach the playoffs with a healthy Andrew Luck. While they have surpassed expectations to this point in the season, the injury to their star quarterback curtailed any semblance of a divisional contention. Another year ticking off the calendar does not help the Colts and, as such, veteran players start looking more like trade chips than on-field performers. Enter Hilton, a former three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver who led the league in receiving yards a season ago, having a decent-but-not-spectacular year catching passes from the likes of Scott Tolzien and Jacoby Brissett. Hilton has three years and $42 million in salary remaining on his current five years, $65 million deal he signed in 2015. He is one of the few veteran players on the roster who would provide plus value at a position where there is little to be found available league-wide.

Trading for Hilton would give the Browns and DeShone Kizer a wide receiver they desperately need. A speedster on the field, Hilton is a home run threat from any position1 and would instantly become the No. 1 on a team bereft of talent on the outside. Acquiring Hilton would also give the Browns some addition by subtraction, giving the team yet another reason to cut Kenny Britt and therefore removing the mistake signing from the field and locker room. Starting for the Browns currently are Rashard Higgins and Ricardo Louis, both of whom work better on the outside, thus allowing for Hilton to work on the inside.

Cost becomes a conversation whenever you talk trade, of course, and trading for Hilton shouldn’t break the bank. Due to the length of contract still on the books for Hilton, draft pick compensation talks would more than likely start around a second- or third-round pick. Given that a potential franchise quarterback in Garoppolo was just traded last night for a second rounder, Indianapolis would be bonkers to expect that out of Hilton. Cleveland has multiple picks in every round except the third and seventh rounds, where they only have their own, but the extra picks allow for gambling on player trades.

This is yet another lost year for Cleveland, a season in which draft positioning is the talk of the town rather than playoff seeding.  The Collins trade of a year ago is template enough to show that you should never stop trying to better the roster by whatever means necessary. Bringing in Hilton not only makes this a better roster for 2017 but shows that it is a more attractive place for free agents in the offseason as well. Trading for T.Y. Hilton is not only a possibility, it should be a necessity.

  1. He performs better from the slot, which makes sense given his smaller frame. []