Report: Mike Hilton seeks new contract, won’t sign exclusive rights tender
The strategy worked two years ago for Alejandro Villanueva, and Mike Hilton apparently is hoping it will pay off for him.
According to an ESPN report, Hilton is not going to sign his exclusive rights tender in an attempt to get a new contract from the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Hilton, 25, served as the team’s starting slot cornerback the past two seasons. As an exclusive rights free agent, he was tendered a one-year, $645,000 deal. Hilton has no negotiating power, but he perhaps can take a page from Villanueva’s playbook from the 2017 offseason.
Like Hilton, Villanueva was an exclusive rights free agent who had started the two previous seasons for the Steelers. Coming off seasons in which he earned $435,000 and $525,000, Villanueva delayed signing the tender while trying to get a new deal.
Villanueva remained unsigned until the day the Steelers reported to training camp at Saint Vincent College. The Steelers gave him a four-year, $24 million contract that included a $6 million signing bonus. Villanueva became a Pro Bowl left tackle the past two seasons.
Unlike Villanueva, Hilton is not an every-down player and takes the field in subpackages. Hilton played 56.8 percent of the defensive snaps in 2018 when he had one interception, eight passes defensed and 57 tackles. In 2017, Hilton registered four sacks.
Hilton earned $465,000 as a rookie and $555,000 in 2018. He can become a restricted free agent after the 2019 season.
The ESPN report said Hilton will not miss any offseason workouts while trying to get a new contract. Villanueva did not miss any workouts in 2017.
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .