2012 NFL Free Agents: 3 Reasons the Browns Should Let Peyton Hillis Skip Town

Sean LeahyCorrespondent IIMarch 2, 2012

2012 NFL Free Agents: 3 Reasons the Browns Should Let Peyton Hillis Skip Town

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    Throughout the 2011 season and now in the buildup to the free agency frenzy and the 2012 NFL draft, the name Peyton Hillis has been accompanied by drama. It is time the Cleveland Browns dispel the theory mongering and let Hillis go.

    There was a time not so long ago when Peyton Hillis emerged from relative obscurity to endear Cleveland fans during his 2010 breakout season. His was a running style that produced gritty, head-down, feet-charging-forward runs to the tune of nearly 1,200 yards, 11 touchdowns and a substantial 4.4 yards per carry.

    The most key stat of that breakout 2010 season, though, was Hillis’ games played, which was perfect at sixteen for the season.

    Then last year happened. You can call it a video game jinx, a hob-goblin curse or relate it to whatever other fanciful rationale you like, but Peyton Hillis revealed the very strong possibility that he may simply be an average back that had a great year due to an element of anonymity.

    Of course, there is validity to the idea that a player cannot be productive and help his team if he is not on the field, and Hillis only played 10 games last year.

    However, that does not negate the question of a player’s desire to play through such injuries. Nor does it excuse him from, despite his time as a sideline spectator, failing to be a supportive and positive force, which would enable him to supplant his lack of on-field time.

    These recurring questions—the severity of certain injuries Hillis sustained, teammates' mounting doubts of his devotion to the concept of team, the dramafest that has accompanied his name—are all factors in the rationale to move forward without him.

    The next few slides will color this rationale in further detail. 

Basic Math (Doesn't Add Up)

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    Hillis somehow has developed the reputation as a marquee NFL running back based on one good year among his four years in the league. That kind of status should be reserved for players that have at least compiled two to three years of consistently productive stats. Not for a player whose career yards-per-season average is right around 540.

    Even had Hillis played a full season last year, taking his average yards rushing per game from 10 to 16 games, he still would not have eclipsed 1,000 yards.

    Obviously, coming up with these figures would not even get me near a passing score on the SATs, but this basic math is all one needs to figure out that Hillis is not really a back worth coveting.

Drama Cloud

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    Any player whose name steadily becomes more synonymous with the non-playing drama he creates than his on-the-field flair is not a player worth considering as a key component.

    Players being unlucky in their prevalence towards injury is one matter, but their positive character sustenance in the face of such bad luck is what ultimately illuminates them as polarizing team figureheads.

    The resultant questioning by fellow teammates of Hillis’ misdirected motivations throughout much of last season, along with the ever-present focus of media attention towards his inconsistent behavior is unneeded and wearisome to a team trying to define its character and progress in the league.

    Whether it is questionable strep throat or questionable time wasted during pre-game warm-ups, or his intimating of a possible career in the CIA, the redundancies regarding his character continue to mount.

    Some players keep their heads down and let their play dictate the numbers of a potential contract. Others enable the desire for such a contract to deter them and become bigger than their commitment to team progress.

    Hillis fell into the second category, which is further reason the Browns did not affix him with the franchise tag as reported by Adam Schefter of ESPN. Surely, this is a reflection of the questionable faith that the team currently has in Hillis.

There Is Nothing Exclusive About No. 40

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    For some reason, Browns fans have had to become accustomed to, and satisfied with, running backs who occasionally compile the success-measured standard 1,000 yard season. 

    If these are truly the kinds of numbers considered to be sufficient, surely there are several running backs in the upcoming NFL draft (whose jerseys don’t say Richardson on the back) who could potentially put up the same average, if not better. 

    The organization, in addition to the fans, should not feel that Hillis is such a prized commodity that his departure would send the rushing attack and offense into a tailspin. Especially when there are numerous possibilities within this year's draft at the position, not to mention potential free agents as ranked by cbssports.com.

    Discounting No. 8 on the list, of course.