The Cleveland Browns are ready to let running back Peyton Hillis test free agency and won’t use the franchise tag to keep him, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want him back.
Browns General Manager Tom Heckert told ESPN’s Josina Anderson that despite widespread reports during the 2011 season that Hillis was unhappy in Cleveland and the team was equally unhappy with him, the Browns would gladly bring Hillis back.
But Heckert, who is continuing to work as he recovers from bypass surgery, hastened to add that they’ll only bring him back at the right price.
“If we can work something out with Peyton we will,” Heckert said. “Did he have some rough patches during the season? Yes. Were there stretches where things were blown out of proportion? Yes. Honestly, I feel like a lot of that was blown up in the media. Now, of course things will still come down to the money, but we’ll just have to wait and see.”
The big question about Hillis is what kind of contract will satisfy him, and what kind of contract a team will be willing to offer him. Hillis repeatedly changing agents suggests that he’s eager to get a big deal and impatient with his inability to get one, but the reality in the NFL right now is that teams are very cautious about giving big money to running backs. Especially running backs coming off seasons in which they gained just 587 yards on a career-low 3.6 yards a carry.
Ultimately, it will come down to the money no matter where Hillis goes. And it may be significantly less money than Hillis wants.