The Options With Peyton Hillis

Despite reports saying that the Browns are set to let Peyton Hillis become a free agent, it is really his contract that is set to let him become a free agent.  If you take Mike Holmgren at his word, this is just a standard contract impasse where the team and agent are too far apart to find common ground on a new deal.  Holmgren then said that Peyton Hillis might have a chance in free agency, should his contract expire without an agreement.  Lastly, Holmgren indicated that the Browns would actively pursue Hillis even on the open market. Holmgren said, “Are we going to be a player in there to try and keep him here? Absolutely, I told him that yesterday.”

So, what are the Browns’ options?  Obviously there is a chance that the Browns and Hillis could still find some common ground on a deal this season.  If Peyton Hillis goes out and performs like one of the top running backs in the league, there is a chance that the Browns could decide that maybe the agent’s idea of compensation were a little more reasonable than what they thought.  Maybe Peyton Hillis continues to struggle with injuries and he and his representation decide that even though their bargaining power is low, that they can’t risk not having some long-term security for Hillis and they sign something lower than maybe what they initially wanted.  Obviously the last step is Hillis becoming a free agent.

If the Browns pursue Hillis in free agency, it could be up to Hillis if the Browns have last opportunity to sign him.  If he is bitter about his time in Cleveland or somehow doesn’t think that Pat Shurmur and company are going to be good for him, he could easily do what Eric Wright did and leave the Browns, potentially even for less money.

There’s always the franchise tag, though.  The Browns have that in their arsenal assuming they don’t use it up on Phil Dawson for a second straight year.  In 2010 the franchise tag for running backs was $8.15 million.  The estimated franchise tag for 2011 was $9.5 million, representing a 17% increase.  If that increase holds true, the Browns could be looking at about $11 million guaranteed for one season in order to franchise Peyton Hillis.

It is a lot of money to be sure, but it also sways bargaining power to the team in negotiations on a longer-term deal.  A one-year guarantee for big money is nice, but for a position like running back where injury rates run especially high, longer term guarantees are certainly preferable.

Ultimately, this will come down to Peyton Hillis and how he plays the rest of this season.  Impasses only need be temporary as more facts are established.  It seems right now both sides are content to keep putting cards down on the table.  Again, if you take Holmgren at his word, he would love nothing more than for Hillis to prove he deserves every dime that his agent is looking for because it would be great for the Browns on Sundays.  What’s good for the Browns on Sundays is good for us all.

(Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)


    I have a strange feeling that this whole deal is not going to end well!If past events are any indicator ,he will leave Cleveland and become the guy we all thought he was!I also believe if we sign him to a max deal the opposite will occur ,oft injured low production!So is life in Cleveland.Can’t get caught up on negativity GO DAWGS!

  • I get wanting to sign a guy who ran for over 1,000 yards last season. But what if that same guy runs for 800 this season? Does he become “last year’s leading rusher” or is he the guy who had an average collective stay during his first two seasons in CLE?

  • Lyon

    If he wants reasonable money sign him. If not, let him go. I like his game (minus the fumbles), but not enough to be saddled with a big contract if he gets hurt or doesn’t live up to last year’s stats. We have enough of that with Hafner, Jamison & Baron Davis.

    @ Scott, I’m guessing 800 yds would still be enough to refer to him as this year’s leading rusher as well, since we only attempt 15 rushes a game.

  • C-Bus Kevin

    Hillis has underperformed this year. That’s a fact. I should know…I have him on my fantasy team as I’m sure many Cleveland fans do.

    The truth is, Hillis could run himself into some negotiating leverage with some outstanding play. In ANY teams eyes, last years performance is totally irrelevant, because hillis hasn’t looked great this year. And I don’t think it’s due to a lack of use from Shurmur either. Hillis has done less with each carry so far this year.

    I fully expect the Browns to pursue him either before the end of the season or once he’s entered free agency. They just seem content to wait and see a larger sample of his work before they make a commitment. In the end, if hillis runs well, he could get a huge payday. Now, he just needs to play better and let his performance do the negotiating.

  • The Conductor

    You can’t run for a 1000 yards and 13 td’s if they wont give you the ball. Run him left, run him often. He’ll get the stats and then he’ll get the money.

    The problem starts with the play calling.

  • DocZeus

    This only ends with him on the Steelers and 1,000 yard seasons for the forseeable future. Just kill me.

  • Tron

    Conductor beat me to it. It’s hard to evaluate the player this year, or have him put up the stats when you only play him 10% of the offensive snaps and give him the rock 6 times a game. My problem right now is if they are going to Poo Poo him because of contract talks and whatever else and not play him, at least try and trade him and get something while he has value instead of just letting him walk at the end of the year. Sitting him behind the newly numbered 17 Hardesty is not doing Hillis, the team, or the fans any good at all.

  • mgbode

    I apologize ahead of time for bringing things like facts and mitigating factors into this discussion.

    Here is a breakdown of our running game so far this season, game by game.

    game1 vs. Bengals
    Hillis 17/57yds 0TD (3.35YPC)
    Others (Hardesty-5, McCoy-3, Cribbs-1)
    PassAtt 40
    *12 pass attempts when we were down by 3 w/ 4min and under to go ended up skewing what (to that point) was a balanced attack despite little running success.

    game2 vs. Colts
    Hillis 27/94 2TDs (3.48YPC)
    Others (Hardesty-3, McCoy-2, Marecic-1)
    PassAtt 32
    *perfectly balanced attack in a game that we controlled pretty well (again despite lack of YPC success). this is the type of game that we all want.

    game3 vs. Dolphins
    Hillis – Out with the flu
    Hardesty – 14/67yds (4.78YPC)
    Others – (A.Smith-2, McCoy-2, Marecic-1)
    PassAtt – 39
    *despite being a close game throughout, we have our largest discrepency in pass:run ratio.

    game4 vs. Titans
    Hillis 10/46yds
    Hardesty 7/22yds
    Others (McCoy-4, A.Smith-1)
    PassAtt – 61
    *oh boy, now that is a discrepency. We got down early, it got worse and we abandoned the run. Also of note is that Hillis and Hardesty both caught 5 passes (but this was the infamous Hardesty drop game – 4 easy drops). Hillis was coming back from losing 10-15lbs and noticeably was getting run-down in the 3rd quarter of a game we were not going to win. So, the coaching staff sat him in the 4th.

    game5 vs. Oak
    Hillis 6/14yds (2.3YPC)
    Hardesty 11/35yds (3.2YPC)
    Others (McCoy-4)
    PassAtt – 45
    *another game we get down early. in this one, our rushing game was nonexistant AND Hillis injured his hamstring, which explains the Hardesty carry discrepancy. our pass:run ratio was very poor but it did end up giving us the ball at the 50 with a chance to tie. didn’t work out, but that’s the reason they go into that offense.

    Overall, I understand that hatred for the pass:run ratios so far, but as you can see they are largely (outside the Miami game) due to getting behind a ton early. We need to play better early so we can remain more balanced and attack better throughout the game.

    I don’t see how any of this has anything to do with a contract. The Miami game was the only time a close game didn’t have a relative balance in pass to run, yet that was the only game Hillis did not play. Doesn’t that show they trust Hillis more than Hardesty? Too much is being made out of a game where Hillis was injured and could not play (and we pretty much abandoned the run game in the 2nd half anyway because we had to mount the comeback).

  • -bobby-

    What I take from this is that Hillis and his agent are trying to get top dollar (CJ or AD type money), and Hillis is not that type of guy. Add in the injury questions, the repeated hamstring injuries and thats where we’re at. I think Holmgren et al would like to get him for about 6 mil a year and Hillis probably is looking more for 10-12. Holmgren is saying to him, “Go out there and show you should have that much with back-to-back good seasons, cause right now we arent offering it.” If Hillis were to end the season just like he is now, I think our FO is confident that their offer will be at the top of the dollar amount for Hillis. Thats my take on it.

  • NJ

    @8 – Good break down. A lot of those hard ratios don’t do justice to how the game played out. Side note: lets also not forget that Steven Jackson, a bruising RB if there ever was one, saw a lot of success playing in Shurmur’s WCO.

    The whole Hillis flap is much ado about nothing imo. It’ll play itself out. If he gets healthy and plays well, we’ll pay him. If he continues to struggle (for whatever reason), we won’t. Simple.

    That said, on a macro level, I have serious issues about investing big money long term in a RB. The position is just too demanding. Pluto had a good column a few days ago about how quickly past Browns RBs crashed after career years. On top of that, if your offensive system is good enough, you can easily find somebody who will do well within it.

  • Shamrock

    Hillis has a good year then disappears it’s his track record whether it’s injuries or whatever. This is why it was probably a good reason to have another RB on the roster other then Hardesty. And by RB I mean a real life RB.

  • Foghorn Leghorn

    Are we hurting for money? I dont get it. We dont have any stars that cost a lot except Joe Thomas. I get not spending all your money just b/c you can, but for the sake of consistency and keeping one of our only playmakers in the fold for at least a few years, why dont we resign this guy?

    I like our firm stance here and the fact that this team is building the right way, but if they value Hillis at all, he needs to get a fair deal and stay with this team.