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Peyton Hillis to Chiefs: Elite Rushing Duo Makes KC Favorites in AFC West

NEW YORK - APRIL 28:  Peyton Hillis #40 of the Cleveland Browns participates in a photo shoot for the cover of EA Sports Madden NFL 12 on April 28, 2011 in Time Square, New York City  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for EA)
Mike Stobe/Getty Images
Zachary D. RymerMLB Lead WriterMarch 15, 2012

Peyton Hillis had one of the rockiest seasons of any player in recent NFL history with the Cleveland Browns in 2011. The good vibes of his breakout 2010 season were quickly washed away by injuries, poor play out on the field and a contract dispute that became a huge distraction in Cleveland's locker room.

Hillis couldn't have picked a better place for a fresh start than Kansas City. And with Hillis in the fold, the Chiefs look mighty dangerous on paper.

Per ESPN.com, the Hillis signing became official on Thursday. The terms of Hillis' contract with the Chiefs were not disclosed, but Adam Schefter has it on good authority that his deal is for one year and $3 million. 

"We are happy that Peyton decided to join us," said head coach Romeo Crennel. "Peyton is a big, strong, physical back with a lot of talent and he should fit into our system well. We are looking forward to working with him and adding him into our offense."

Jamaal Charles
Jamaal CharlesDilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Crennel pretty much hit the nail on the head. The Chiefs are not bringing Hillis in to be their No. 1 running back, but he will fit very well alongside Jamaal Charles, who was the NFL's second-leading rusher in 2010.

Though things are entirely contingent on Charles being healthy after suffering a torn ACL in 2011, the Charles-Hillis tandem promises to be a classic lightning-thunder duo that the Chiefs can use to establish an elite rushing attack. If Charles stays healthy, the Chiefs will run the ball even better than they did in 2010, when Charles and Thomas Jones combined their efforts to give Kansas City the league's No. 1 rushing attack. The Chiefs won 10 games and captured the AFC West for the first time since 2003.

Thanks primarily to Charles' absence, the Chiefs weren't able to run the ball as effectively in 2011, and their entire offense suffered as a result. Now that the Chiefs have the pieces in place to recapture their rushing dominance of 2010, it stands to reason their offense will pick up again and that they'll be able to make a serious run (no pun intended) at winning the AFC West.

As of right now, the Chiefs have the rest of the division beat in terms of overall talent. Their offense will be just fine as long as the Charles-Hillis duo remains intact, and nobody should overlook the general quality of Kansas City's defense. The Chiefs had one of the top defenses in the AFC last season, and things are looking good heading into 2012. They have talent in the right places.

While the Chiefs have spent this offseason getting better, the rest of the division has failed to make improvements. The Oakland Raiders are more concerned with clearing cap space than they are with making upgrades, the San Diego Chargers continue to move backwards as an organization and the Denver Broncos may lose out to the Tennessee Titans in the Peyton Manning race (though Mike Klis of The Denver Post says the Broncos are still the "leaders in the clubhouse").

If the season were to start today, the Chiefs would be the strongest team in the division, and it wouldn't be close. There's a lot of time left in the offseason, but the other three teams in the AFC West have a lot of catching up to do.

 

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