Monday, October 10, 2011

Peyton Hillis Knows Now Is His Best Chance To Win Big Contract With Cleveland Browns

Peyton Hillis knows he is extremely fortunate to be in the position he is now with the Cleveland Browns as a star running back in the NFL:

  • At college at Arkansas, was a fullback because there were two flashier backs behind him in juniors Darren McFadden and Felix Jones.  His senior in 2007, as a fullback, averaged 5.6 yards/carry (the same as McFadden).
  • McFadden and Jones were both drafted in the first round of the 2008 NFL draft, where Hillis wasn't taken until the 7th round by the Denver Broncos
  • In his rookie year in 2008, Hillis had a handful of starts and promising games before suffering a tear in his hamstring which ended his season
  • In 2009, the new Broncos under Josh McDaniels rarely utilized Hillis.  At the end of the season, they traded him to the Cleveland Browns for Brady Quinn.

Finally, in 2010, he had a breakout season with the Browns.  1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns rushing with another 477 yards receiving.  He was a local hero in Ohio, and looked to be poised for a long career with the Browns.

Unfortunately, 2011 has been a shaky year for Hillis.  He has had games of 57, 94, and 46 yards.  He missed one game due to sickness (strep throat), and has been constantly criticized for that in the media since (more below).  He's struggling in an offense that has changed into a West Coast Offense in the off-season with a new coaching staff.  

The main issue, however, is that Hillis is campaigning for a new contract.  He is in the final year of his rookie contract, and is making $650,000 this year.  His contract was for a seventh-round pick, and Hillis knows that 2010's opportunity with the Browns was a gift that he was lucky to get. He could have stayed stuck in the Denver system without a chance to show what he can do.

When a running back is approaching the end of their original contract, there's a certain sense of panic of getting a deal done before you suffer an injury.  Certainly, Hillis' smash-mouth style leaves him open to injury with every touch of the ball. 

They key question is, do the Browns want to pay a guy who may no longer fit into their system? I know the Browns fans love the guy, but they love winning more.  The Browns may sign him, only to trade him in the off-season.

Either way, Hillis isn't endearing himself to anyone by focusing attention on his contract situation in his dealings with the media.  Perhaps if he was more productive he could make a better case.  I'm not sure how his teammates feel about the situation, but I'm sure they don't appreciate the distraction.  

I'm not gonna begrudge any player for trying anything they can to get a better contract.  Hillis has paid his dues in college and the NFL, and we all know that there's only a limited number of hits a running back can take before they start to break down.  While Hillis hasn't had an exorbitant number of carries during his career, he has blocked/hit a lot.  Get your money if you can, Peyton.

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