“I got a lot of calls,” said Hilton on Wednesday, as he retakes the field with a shot at passing the 10,000-yard receiving mark in 2022. “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.”
It’s the only team Hilton visited with and worked out for, which says quite a bit about his level of interest in joining an offense that’s leading the league in points per game since the return of two-time Pro Bowl quarterback Dak Prescott from injury. This tidbit played a big role in Hilton shrugging off other suitors, as did the 10-3 record accompanied by a dominant defense.
“[The 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 and just plug me in to help them try to get over the hump.”
It’s an offensive unit that isn’t short of firepower when you consider the electric running back tandem of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard, the ascension of CeeDee Lamb as a true WR1, the fact Michael Gallup is beginning to find his stride post-injury and the four-headed hydra in the tight end room.
But for as much as the Cowboys offense is doing right, there are things they still need to clean up and/or have a chance to go over the top with, and that’s why Hilton (and possibly a signing Odell Beckham, Jr. as well ) come into play.
“I think I can bring veteran leadership,” Hilton said. “My job is to help these guys as much as I can. Right now, I just want to concentrate on staying in the playbook. I’ve been studying the past two days, probably 15 hours [a day]just getting this thing down.
“However I can help, I’m willing to help.”
And, speaking of Beckham, Hilton was asked the obvious question regarding the Cowboys continued interest in the three-time Pro Bowler — prior to and now following Hilton’s signing — but the Colts legend isn’t focused on it. If anything, while he prepares to try and contribute himself, he’s all for it.
“It didn’t play a role [in my decision] at all,” Hilton said. “If he can help this team, go get him.”
Circling back to what Hilton himself brings to the table, though, there are those who point at his injury history as a concern, though he started in nine games to finish the 2021 season and logged 15 starts the season prior en route to 766 receiving yards and five touchdowns.
Hilton took a moment to explain where he is physically, only days after a successful workout wherein the Cowboys told him they’d seen enough before he ever truly got going (that’s a pretty strong vote of confidence from the Cowboys training staff, by the way ).
“Coming off of the neck surgery, it was tough but, other than that I was pretty healthy,” he said. “I felt good toward the end of the season, felt good going into the offseason, and that’s the reason I’m deciding to play. I’m healthy. My body feels really good. …
“I’m always running. Running is not a problem. I’m always in shape. I’m never out of shape, no matter what. I run all day. I’ll be fine.
“…I’m definitely fresh.”
The 33-year-old need only acclimate mentally to the playbook and how to “speak Cowboy’ as it pertains to the language contained therein, and he’s spent 15 hours per day studying since putting pen to paper, with the Cowboys offensive coaching staff quizzing him roughly 20 of those combined 30 hours—thus far.
And nobody believes in Hilton more than Malik Hooker, the veteran safety and former first-round pick of the Colts having spent several seasons either watching Hilton take over games or trying to defend him in practice.
For his part, Hooker is all-in on meeting with Hilton.
“You name it — he can catch a deep ball for us,” said Hooker. “He can catch a screen and go to the house. Whatever you need him to do, really. Whatever you need him to do.”
Needless to say, Hilton agrees.
So when asked what he plans to do in Dallas, his answer was as succinct as it was compelling: