2012 NFL Free Agents: Top 5 Destinations for Peyton Hillis
Peyton Hillis was on top of the world less than a year ago. He was coming off a breakout year, had beaten out Mike Vick to become the Madden cover athlete and was gearing up for a huge contract offer from the Browns.
This season, no new deal came as he struggled through injuries and allowed his contract situation to get inside his head.
Hillis was one of the breakout stars of 2010 and the future face of the Cleveland Browns—now he stares at free agency and the very real possibility that he won't be playing for the Browns next season.
The young power back has shown he can carry the load and should have options in free agency.
Here are five teams that would be good fits for Peyton Hillis.
5. Cleveland Browns
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Peyton Hillis didn't come close to the year many had envisioned for him.
The free-agent-to-be had 587 yards on the ground this year, only averaging 3.6 yards a carry while being slowed by a hamstring injury for much of the season.
This led to many openly questioning whether Hillis was sitting out due to his displeasure with contract negotiations.
Perhaps in the end, the Browns and Hillis will realize they need each other, but right now it seems the chances are slim the former Arkansas Razorback returns.
4. New York Giants
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The "smash and dash" duo have been solid but have had their struggles.
Neither back averaged more than 4.0 yards a carry but combined for 1,230 yards and 16 touchdowns.
However, Jacobs thinks his time with the Giants may be coming to an end. Replacing the "smash" for his team may be as easy as bringing the power-running Hillis on board.
Hillis is also a better receiver out of the backfield than Jacobs and could add a new element to the Giants' offensive attack.
Replacing Jacobs, who turns 30 in July, with the younger Hillis could end up being a smart, cost-effective move for the G-Men.
3. Oakland Raiders
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The Oakland Raiders might lose their backup Michael Bush to free agency after he had a career high in rushing yards with 977.
He also turned in career highs with receptions (37), receiving yards (418) and had his first career receiving touchdown.
Bush and Hillis have similar builds and straightforward running styles.
Hillis could come in a take over for Bush without there being too much of a transition period.
Hillis is also familiar with Raiders starting running back Darren McFadden, as they played in the same loaded backfield at Arkansas. The two running backs didn't grow up far from each other and still talk to each other when they get the chance, as described in this 2011 article.
If Bush leaves, perhaps McFadden can convince the Raiders and Hillis that striking a deal would be in the best interest of both parties.
2. New York Jets
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Since Rex took over as head coach, the Jets hadn’t finished below fourth in rushing yards, but they fell to 22nd in 2011.
To fix this, the Jets hired Tony Sparano as their new offensive coordinator.
The team is committed to getting back to the "ground-and-pound" style of play that got it to the AFC championship game in back-to-back seasons.
A running game featuring the power running styles of Peyton Hillis and Shonn Greene would wear down opposing defenses, giving the Jets the tough offensive style they crave.
Working in the team's favor is its interest in Brian Daboll as quarterbacks coach. Daboll was the offensive coordinator for Hillis during his breakout year.
Working against the Jets is the team's salaries next season, currently projected at $125 million, according to James Walker of ESPN—that's $5 million over the league's cap. This could make signing Hillis difficult for the team.
1. Cincinnati Bengals
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Cincinnati Bengals starter Cedric Benson is an impending free agent and wasn't happy with the offensive changes this season.
Benson hasn't averaged more than 4.0 yards per carry in the past two seasons, and it may be time for the Bengals and Benson to move on.
Benson gained only 14 yards on seven carries in the Bengals' playoff loss against the Houston Texans this year. Benson also hits the dreaded age of 30 during next season.
The Bengals share a division with the Browns and know Hillis well. He would be a solid safety net out of the backfield for young QB Andy Dalton, offering better hands than Benson.
The Bengals have a bright future but must contend in the same division as the Ravens. Benson hasn't cracked 80 yards against the Ravens in two years and hasn't cracked 3.0 yards per carry in two games.
Hillis went over 100 against the Ravens twice in the past two years and had a monster 144-yard performance against them in 2010. Hillis did this without the benefit of a solid passing game like the one the Bengals are building with cornerstones Andy Dalton and A.J. Green.
Still just 26, Hillis could help establish the ground game against a Ravens team that sits atop the division.
The Bengals have the cap space to offer Hillis a little more, but that could also lead them to going after another back like Michael Bush, who some think is the more capable runner.