NFL Free Agency: Peyton Hillis Signs with Chiefs to Resurrect Career

Derek EstesCorrespondent IMarch 15, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 18: Peyton Hillis #40 of the Cleveland Browns carries the ball against Jerraud Powers #25 of the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 18, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The Kansas City Chiefs extended a life line to Peyton Hillis' career Wednesday afternoon.

After a dismal 2011 season with the Cleveland Browns, Hillis signed a 1-year contract with Kansas City to become Jamaal Charles' counterpart in the Chiefs run game.

Hillis surged as one of the surprise players in 2010, powering his way through defenders in Cleveland for over 1,600 total yards. He quickly became a fan favorite and landed on the Madden '12 cover.

Whether it was the Madden Curse, contract disputes or just bad luck, Hillis' career fell as quickly as it rose. Strep throat and a bum hamstring kept Hillis out of six games last season, and things went south in the locker room to the point where his teammates pulled him aside to talk about his attitude.

At 26, Hillis could still play for a good number of years. But with another year like 2011, those games would be more likely played in Omaha or some other UFL city rather than in the NFL.

That's why signing with Kansas City makes so much sense for Hillis. He rejoins his former offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, and he'll immediately step in as Thomas Jones' successor.

In 2010, Jones gained nearly 900 yards as part of the Chiefs' league-leading rushing offense. And with Kansas City likely to upgrade their offensive line this offseason, Hillis should have plenty of opportunities to match or exceed that number.

If that happens, Hillis will find a much more fruitful market for his services, and at 27, he'll be looking for that final contract to carry him through the end of his football career.

Of course, that might mean the Chiefs come back to the same situation they're in this year. If Hillis excels, odds are another team will outbid the Chiefs much like Dallas did for Brandon Carr and Kyle Orton.

But for now, the Chiefs have a player with no set future and a need to prove himself. And there's nothing more dangerous than a person who has nothing to lose.