Mike Hilton has been overlooked and underrated for his entire career. So it’s only fitting he ended up on CBS’ list of the Top Ten most underrated free agents of this offseason. Hilton was one of three defensive backs included on the list. In explaining the Hilton pick, author Cody Benjamin wrote:
“It remains to be seen whether Hilton is viewed as highly around the NFL as he is in Pittsburgh, where the Steelers rewarded his rise from undrafted rookie with a 2020 second-round restricted free agent tender. The young corner certainly isn’t shutdown material; at 5-foot-9 and 184 pounds, he’s been restricted to the slot and posted so-so coverage grades. He is, however, somewhat of a torpedo (in a good way), making a name for himself as a blitzer and play-maker. His physical limitations dictate that he’ll likely have to remain inside, but he would bring a consistent feistiness to any defense.”
The question posed in that first sentence is the million (or in this case, multi-million) one. How much will the league at large value Hilton? There’s no question he fits the Steelers’ scheme better than probably any defense in football. He’s one of the league’s top run-stopping corners, allowing Pittsburgh to play more sub-package even against heavy offensive personnel and his blitzing ability makes him an ideal fit in the defense’s blitz-happy scheme. Using him in a more traditional slot corner scheme will decrease his value and potential price tag out on the market. The article lists the Broncos, Cardinals, Eagles, 49ers, Panthers, and Steelers as the most logical landing spots.
While he fits best in Pittsburgh, his price tag might not. CBS’ projection has him in the $4-7 million per year range but that could be on the lower end of things. One of the league’s top corners, he should be aiming in the ballpark of the 4 year, $33 million deal the Colts gave Kenny Moore in June of 2019. That’s an average of over $8 million per season.
Deserving to get paid, Hilton’s market will be one of the most interesting questions of the Steelers’ offseason. Meanwhile, Cam Sutton is also a free agent and should cost a much cheaper rate, potentially in the $4-5 million range.
Colts’ QB Jacoby Brissett was the top name on CBS’ most underrated list. If the Steelers had more cap space or if Ben Roethlisberger retired/was cut, Brissett would’ve been a semi-interesting name for the Steelers. He played for Matt Canada at NC State. Other names on the list include Panthers’ RB Mike Davis and Saints’ EDGE rusher Trey Hendrickson.