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Tag:Peyton Hillis
Posted on: March 2, 2012 10:12 pm
 

Hillis refutes CIA story, wants to stay in CLE

Hillis called CIA report '100 percent false,' adding that it 'makes me sound insane.' (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

Once the Browns signed linebacker D'Qwell Jackson to a long-term deal, there was speculation that they might use the franchise tag on running back Peyton Hillis. Didn't happen. Instead, the organization chose to tag 37-year-old kicker Phil Dawson, which should tell you just where Hillis figures in the Browns' future.

Also not helping: a recent story that Hillis was contemplating retirement and entertaining thoughts of joining the C.I.A. 

On Friday, Hillis set the record straight on his professional future. Speaking with the Cleveland Plain-Dealer's Mary Kay Cabot, the running back called the reports that had given thought to joining the C.I.A. "100 percent false," adding that "it makes me sound insane."

Yeah, it does. But no one thought much of it given all that happened during the 2011 season, starting with the Madden curse (it's real!), the reports that his impending contract situation affected his decision to play, and the Boys and Girls Club Halloween PR disaster.

Given all that, it's not inconceivable that Hillis might decide to give up on football altogether.

"That's ridiculous," he told the Plain-Dealer regarding retirement. "I never one time mentioned anything to any coach about retirement or joining the CIA or anything like that. That's pretty much ridiculous and 100 percent false. I don't know what's going on or who came up with a story like that, but they should've come up with a better one to make it sound more legit.''

And a life as an intelligence officer?

"It makes me sound insane," he said. "Why would you give up football to go to the CIA? It's ridiculous and it hurts what people think about you. And I think it's very unfair.''

(To be fair, Tiger Woods gave some consideration to becoming a Navy SEAL, which is infinitely more preposterous than Hillis joining the C.I.A.)

As for Hillis' NFL future, he says he wants to stay in Cleveland.

"I've always loved this city and I still do love it and I still want to play for the Cleveland Browns. I'm not sure who wants me there and who doesn't want me there. It's out of my hands at this point. They've said they might want to re-sign me.''

Hillis even indicated that he'd be willing to take a hometown discount.

"Yeah, of course, just because I want to be a Brown. It just depends on what they want to do. When free agency gets here, I'd love to hear them out.''

A year ago, Hillis was one of the league's best running backs. Now he's happily discussing hometown discounts. There's a reason the man believes in the Madden curse.

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Posted on: March 1, 2012 1:36 pm
 

Is Peyton Hillis thinking about retiring?

Does Hillis really want to join the CIA? (Getty Images)
By Josh Katzowitz

We told you a couple days ago that the Browns were unlikely to franchise tag running back Peyton Hillis but might still attempt to sign him in free agency.

if Hillis doesn’t retire, that is.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, that’s exactly what Hillis has thought about, even telling the team at the end  of 2011 that he was considering ending his four-year career. Apparently, he’s even thought about joining the CIA (!).

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Hillis is a free agent (No. 8 in our rankings), but he and his agent are no longer working together.

"If we can work something out with Peyton, we will," Browns general manager Tom Heckert told ESPN’s Josina Anderson. "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 Browns could use the franchise tag on Hillis, but they probably won’t, because it would cost $7.7 million, and considering Hillis is coming off a disappointing season in which some questioned his desire to fight through injuries and his desire to play, that’s not necessarily a smart investment.

So, we’re unclear at this point if Hillis wants to return to Cleveland, if the Browns want him back or if Hillis wants to forgo football and become a spy.

But here’s what we do know: the curse of the Madden cover most definitely lives on.

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Posted on: February 28, 2012 11:52 am
 

Report: Browns 'unlikely' to tag Peyton Hillis

Hillis isn't likely a candidate for a franchise tag. (US Presswire)
By Will Brinson

When the Browns went out and signed D'Qwell Jackson to a new five-year deal last week, it seemed like a good indication that they'd use their franchise tag elsewhere. Perhaps running back Peyton Hillis would be a target.

But that doesn't appear to be the case. Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer reports that the Browns are "unlikely" to use the tag on Hillis, but may still attempt to re-sign the running back before free agency begins on March 13.

The price for tagging a running back is $7.7 million, all of which is guaranteed, so it shouldn't be shocking that the Browns will avoid using that on Hillis. Not only would that be overpaying for his 2012 production, but it would be giving Hillis too high a number for baseline negotiations going forward.

Hills struggled badly in 2012, after a breakout 2011 season that landed him on the Madden cover. He played in just 10 games last year, ran for just 587 yards and saw his rushing yards per attempt dip nearly a full yard, from 4.4 in 2010 to 3.6 last season. He found the end zone just three times in 2011 after 13 total touchdowns in 2010. And he had reported issues with his contract off the field as well.

A more likely candidate for the Browns tag? Their kicker, Phil Dawson. Cabot writes that it's "doubtful" the Browns use the tag at all. If Dawson, who turned 37 in January, were to get the tag from the Browns, he'd be guaranteed $3.8 million.

While that's not outrageous, there's something about "using a franchise tag on a 37-year-old kicker" that just screams "we won't contend this year."

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Posted on: February 27, 2012 2:11 pm
Edited on: February 27, 2012 2:15 pm
 

Report: D'Qwell Jackson gets $42.5 mil extension

Jackson wanted a five-year extension, and that's exactly what he got. (US Presswire)
By Josh Katzowitz

D’Qwell Jackson was one of the best comeback stories of 2011. Though Matthew Stafford took home the AP comeback player of the year award, Jackson was as good a candidate for that honor as anybody.

After missing two seasons because of pectoral injuries, Jackson returned as a force in 2011, leading the AFC with 158 tackles (second-best in the NFL), recording a career-high 3.5 sacks and recovering three fumbles (tied for best in the AFC)*.

Now, the Browns are rewarding him, as they’ve announced they’ve signed him to a multiyear contract extension. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the deal is for five years and $42.5 million (including $19 million in guarantees and bonuses).

*Obviously, the hyperbaric chamber he loves so much was one reason he was so successful. At least in his mind.

The news obviously is great for Jackson, who wanted a five-year extension, but it’s also a positive step for the Browns, who were thinking about placing the franchise tag on Jackson at about $8.8 million for 2012.

As the Plain Dealer wrote earlier this month, the Browns also were thinking about tagging kicker Phil Dawson. That would cost them about $3.8 million since they also tagged him last season. Running back Peyton Hillis also remains an option to be tagged.

"Do I want to be back? This is where I started," Jackson told the paper in mid-February. "That's not even an afterthought to me. Yes, I want to be with the Browns, no question about it. I'm here in this locker room and I like the guys I'm playing with right now. That's all that matters."

"They indicated they wanted me back when they gave me an opportunity to come back after an injury; that was enough for me. That told me that they wanted me back. I was out for 26 games and they could've easily gone in a different direction, but they didn't. I owe it to them in a sense."

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Posted on: February 23, 2012 9:05 am
Edited on: February 23, 2012 10:28 am
 

2012 NFL Free Agency: Running back rankings

Players are willing to get the franchise tag if it means a long-term deal is in their future. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

Leading up to the start of free agency on March 13, we're compiling the best 2012 NFL free agents by position. These are the running backs.

1. Ray Rice

Breakdown: Ray Rice told CBSSports.com back in October that "I think the Ravens are going to do the right thing … with the contract situation, I'll leave it in their hands." As it stands, Rice is a free agent. And it appears that while the Ravens may eventually "do the right thing" and sign him to a long-term contract (though almost certainly nowhere near Adrian Peterson-type money), the short-term plan is to franchise him. At 25, Rice hasn't yet reached his prime, which is all the more reason the Ravens should find a way to keep him in Baltimore for the next five years.

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The problem, of course, is that running backs are fungible. We've beaten this dead horse beyond recognition but it's worth repeating: teams can find relatively productive backs for little money. Knowing that, it doesn't make sense to use a non-trivial part of the salary cap to pay running backs, even those well above replacement level. It's why were were adamant last summer that the Titans shouldn't pay Chris Johnson. (They did and he was underwhelming in 2011, rushing for 1,047 yards -- 4.0 YPC -- and four touchdowns.)

That said, Rice isn't your typical back. In addition to his ability to run the ball, he's also a dangerous pass catcher. How dangerous? He led Baltimore in receptions in 2011 (76), was second behind Anquan Boldin in 2010 (63), and first in 2009 (78). For all the talk about Joe Flacco wanting a new deal, the Ravens' offense goes through Rice.

Potential landing spots: Ravens. That's it. If he gets away, Baltimore deserves whatever fate awaits them. Rice fits any system but is especially dangerous when he's utilized. That seems obvious but it's something offensive coordinator Cam Cameron forgot at various points during the 2011 season.

2. Matt Forte

Breakdown: Forte missed the final month of the 2011 season with a knee injury but it won't have any impact on what the Bears think he's worth. They have no plans to let him hit free agency -- earlier this month team president Ted Phillips said, "We'd like to (work out a long-term deal). But as (new GM) Phil (Emery) pointed out we obviously will at least consider placing the franchise tag on him. We don't have any intention of letting Matt hit the open market. We'll sit down with him privately, Phil will, and discuss what the plans are prior to the Feb. 20 franchise tag date."

And while #paydaman was the Twitter meme of the '11 season for Forte, he seems amenable to the franchise tag if it leads somewhere beyond a one-and-done deal.

"It depends on the motive of (the franchise tag)," Forte said a few days after Phillips' comments above. "If they are doing the franchise tag just to get more time in order to negotiate a long-term deal, then I would be OK with it. But if it's just to hold me another year and just, 'Let's throw some money at him right now to keep him quiet,' that's not going to solve anything."

Plus, with offensive coordinator Mike Martz gone and Mike Tice named as his replacement, the offense shouldn't require six weeks to find its rhythm. Ideally, a healthy mix of pass and run will keep Cutler upright and the Bears competitive in the NFC North. Forte, clearly, is a big part of that.

Potential landing spots: The Bears have no intentions of letting Forte get away, but like Rice, he'd fit in pretty much any offense. He's a capable pass-catcher and north-south runner.

3. Arian Foster

 Foster wants to stay in Houston '100 percent' (Getty Images)
Breakdown: Foster told CBSSports.com at the Super Bowl that he "100 percent" wants to be back with the Texans and it sounds like the Texans 100 percent want him back.  As of early January, the two sides hadn't made progress on a new contract, and like Forte, Foster doesn't seem averse to the franchise tag if it means a long-term deal is in his future. Unlike Forte, Foster is a restricted free agent, which means the Texans have the option to sign him to a tender offer, which would be much less than the one-year franchise-tag value of $7.7 million.

Could the Texans' offense survive without Foster, the 2010 NFL rushing leader? Yeah, sure. They still have Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels and Ben Tate. But Foster is only 25, and he's played on an undrafted free agent's salary the last two seasons. He's certainly outperformed his previous deal, now it's up to Foster's agent and the organization to find some middle ground.

Potential landing spots: The Texans. The franchise tag guarantees that other teams won't even get a shot at landing him. That said, he'd fit perfectly in the Redskins' scheme (they run virtually the same offense as the Texans, just with less talented players).

4. Marshawn Lynch

Breakdown: In the wacky world of Pete Carroll, trading a second-rounder for Charlie Whitehurst makes sense. So too does signing Tarvaris Jackson. To Carroll's credit, he said "thanks but no thanks" when his Heisman-winning quarterback during his USC days, Matt Leinart, was dumped by the Cardinals. And he had something to do with bringing Marshawn Lynch to Seattle for a 2011 fourth-rounder and a 2012 fifth-rounder. Lynch carried the Seahawks to a playoff win over the Saints in 2010, and rushed for 12,04 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2011.

Lynch was Seattle's most consistent offensive weapon last season (this explains the Peyton Manning scuttlebutt) and earlier this week the word on the street was that the team was in "deep" contract talks with Lynch and would consider using the franchise tag if the two sides couldn't reach an agreement.

We're not sure that's the best use of resources for an offense with plenty of issues. Unlike the Ravens, Bears and Texans -- all teams with top-15 quarterbacks -- the Seahawks might want to take that $7.7 million they'd use on Lynch and address other needs (quarterback, wide receiver, or a couple running backs, for example).

Potential landing spots: Seahawks, Bengals, Jets, Redskins

5. Michael Bush

Breakdown: Darren McFadden played in just seven games last season but the Raiders' rush offense still ranked 11th in the league, according to Football Outsiders. Much of that was due to Michael Bush, who ran for 977 yards (3.8 YPC) and seven touchdowns, and added 418 yards receiving.

Still, despite his '11 success, when training camp begins, McFadden will be atop the depth chart. Running backs-by-committee are en vogue so it's reasonable to think that Bush will get plenty of work but he wants to be a starter (likely because it comes with starter money). And for that reason, the Contra Costa Times' Steve Corkran wrote last week that Bush might prefer the franchise tag to a long-term deal. Corkran pointed out that new general manager Reggie McKenzie has a knack for developing running backs, which could mean that Bush will be elsewhere next season.

Potential landing spots: Bengals (former Raiders coach Hue Jackson is an assistant there), Buccaneers, Redskins

6. BenJarvus Green-Ellis

Breakdown: ESPN.com's Mike Reiss broke down Green-Ellis' situation nicely last week: "The view from here is that the Patriots would like Green-Ellis to return and have a price in mind. The question then becomes if that price is attractive enough that it sparks Green-Ellis to sign before hitting free agency."

Free agency starts March 13. There will be a glut of running backs on the market and there's no promise that Green-Ellis will get more in free agency than he would from the Pats. It's more likely that New England will offer something less than market value because a) they typically handle the salary cap well, and b) they'll sell it as "we're a winner, if you go elsewhere you'll be in rebuilding mode."

And then there's c): the Pats drafted two running backs last April -- Shane Vereen in Round 2, Stevan Ridley in Round 3 -- and should they not be able to re-sign Green-Ellis they'd have plenty of depth at the position (something they seem oddly incapable of at wide receiver). As always, as long as Tom Brady is on the field, the Patriots will have a good chance to win. It would be nice to have Green-Ellis behind him but New England's offense will survive either way.

Potential landing spots: Patriots, Chiefs (Scott Pioli's the GM)

7. Cedric Benson

Breakdown: It's seldom players go to Cincinnati to revitalize careers but Benson isn't your typical NFL running back. The Bears' former No. 4 pick in 2005, he was considered a bust until he joined the Bengals in 2008. He rushed for 1,251 yards in 2009, 1,111 in 2010 and 1,067 last season.

This offseason, the organization has talked about getting backup Bernard Scott more touches next season. Benson, meanwhile, has taken to publicly calling out the Bengals -- not the best negotiating strategy.

“We didn’t stick on what the offense was built on," Benson said during an appearance this week on SiriusXM. "When we had Carson and Chad we kept a strong identity in the run game and we kind of got away from it and didn’t let that part of the offense grow and bit the bullet on it a little bit.”

As for Benson's future in Cincy, we think this comment pretty much says it all: “I’m not sure [where things stand]. We haven’t had any talks about a new deal.”

Last offseason, the organization dumped Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco, drafted A.J. Green and Andy Dalton and made the playoffs. The in-with-the-new personnel philosophy will apparently continue this offseason, too.

Potential landing spots: Benson's skills have diminished to the point that he's probably not worth more than a veteran minimum deal. Given his baggage, it makes more sense for a team looking for running back depth to sign a young player.

8. Peyton Hillis

Cleveland wants to keep Hillis? (Getty Images)
Breakdown: Whether Hillis was a victim of the Madden curse (he thinks he was) or he just got really bad really fast, the fact remains: he cost himself a lot of money in 2011. Hillis was traded from the Broncos to the Browns for Tim Tebow's No. 1 fan, Brady Quinn, and Hillis rushed for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2010. He played in just 10 games last season, rushing for 587 yards and three scores.

Not good. Not good at all.

There were concerns during the season that Hillis let his impending contract negotiations affect his decision to play. As you might expect, that didn't go over well with teammates or fans. Still, the Browns said last month that they want Hillis back after he "worked his way into the team's good graces" over the final six weeks.

A source tells the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Mary Kay Cabot that the organization might even consider franchising (!) Hillis if they come to terms with linebacker D'Qwell Jackson. That sounds, well, silly but then again, we're talking about the Browns.

Potential landing spots: Browns, Patriots (where derailed careers get back on track), Broncos (two Tebows, one backfield)

9. Ryan Grant

Breakdown: The team appeared to favor James Starks but he's had trouble staying on the field. In 2011, Grant had 14 starts and rushed 134 times for 559 yards and two touchdowns. Not particularly noteworthy, but then again, he played in Aaron Rodgers' offense. He'll be 30 in December and while he rushed for more than 1,200 yards in 2008 and 2009, an ACL injury sidelined him for all but one game in 2010.

Earlier this month, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Rob Reischel wrote that "Packer general manager Ted Thompson won't make a heavy investment in a running back Grant's age… So Grant will test free agency, and he is unlikely to return unless there's little interest on the open market."

Grant seems to understand the situation. "We'll see," he said. "I know I have a lot left. I think I showed that at the end of the year here. Would like to be back . . . but we'll just have to see."

Potential landing spots: Teams looking for running back-by-committee members willing to play for the veteran minimum. Barring injuries, not sure there will be much of a market.

10. Honorable Mention

Unrestricted free agents: Mike Tolbert, LaDainian Tomlinson, Kevin Smith, Thomas Jones

Restricted free agents: LeGarrette Blount, Isaac Redman, LaRod Stephens-Howling

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Posted on: January 31, 2012 11:34 am
 

Report: Browns now want Peyton Hillis back

Hills could be back in Cleveland next year. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

2011 wasn't Peyton Hillis' year. But maybe 2012 already got him clear of the Madden Curse, as the Browns reportedly want to re-sign the running back, despite his injuries during the previous season.

That's according to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, who reports that Hillis "worked his way back into the team's good graces" over the final six weeks of the season, and that Cleveland would like him back in 2012.

Hillis struggled with injuries, a belief that he was soft, playing time, and all the other things that accompany the Madden Curse in 2011. After busting out for 1,177 yards in 2011, Hillis took a major step back in 2012, rushing for just 587 yards in 10 games, nine of which he started.

At one point, he was the embodiment of Cleveland athletics, a blue-collar guy whose style of running fit perfectly with the way Cleveland sees itself. Which is precisely why the Browns kept saying they'd re-sign him.

That they're now interested in locking up Hillis again is interesting, but perhaps the timing of the interest is obvious, given how much cheaper  Hillis will be to sign than he was a year ago at this time.

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Posted on: January 27, 2012 9:27 am
Edited on: January 27, 2012 8:59 pm
 

Browns hire Brad Childress for OC

Chilly might be about to get back in the playcalling business. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

On Thursday, the Bucs landed Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, eliminating Brad Childress and Mike Sherman as candidates. And with another domino -- Sherman to Miami -- about to fall, it looks like a good bet that Childress will wind up with the Browns.

That's precisely what the Browns did Friday, announcing that Childress has been hired as their offensive coordinator. 

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Cabot points out that Sherman and Childress were the Browns top two options, and with Sherman signing with the Dolphins, it means Childress' top option is Cleveland, and Childress is Cleveland's top option as well.

The marriage makes sense. As Andy Reid's offensive coordinator with the Eagles, Childress twice architected a top-10 passing offense, and he managed that with the Vikings once as well. (It's really unfair to judge his passing production in Minnesota, what with Adrian Peterson on the roster and all; the Vikings were quite good at rushing the ball.)

And Browns coach Pat Shurmur was the tight ends coach and quarterbacks coach in Philly under Chilly. They know each other. "Very well," according to Shurmur recently.

Shurmur didn't hire an offensive coordinator in his first season and called the plays himself. Cleveland finished 24th in passing yards in the NFL, 27th in passing touchdowns, 30th in net yards per passing attempt, 28th in rushing yards and 32nd in rushing touchdowns and 31st in net yards per rushing attempt. (Football Outsiders is a touch more generous, ranking them 25th overall in offensive efficiency.)

So, um, not good. Shurmur declined to commit to Colt McCoy in his season wrap-up, and that made most of the headlines. But he also wouldn't rule out the possibility of having someone come in and call plays for him.

"It's important that I get the best coordinator I can for us," Shurmur said. "I think that's one of the details that'll get worked out as we go through the process. I want to get the best guy I can. And if he's outstanding at calling plays, listen, I want to win games, and so I'm gonna get the guys in there that are gonna help us do that."

Ultimately, it's a logical conclusion. Childress and Shurmur are former co-workers. Both of them are disciples of Reid, who's a direct coaching-tree descendent of Browns president Mike Holmgren.

The transition to Chilly calling plays would likely be seamless. The Browns just need to figure out those "who's our quarterback" and "where can we get playmakers" problems.

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Posted on: January 15, 2012 6:43 pm
 

Will Cedric Benson return to Bengals in 2012?

BensonBy Josh Katzowitz

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis has wanted to get backup running back Bernard Scott more playing time, and if this Cincinnati Enquirer report is any indication, it sounds like that might happen in 2012. But it might happen because starter Cedric Benson – who’s hit the 1,000-yard milestone the past three seasons -- might not return to Cincinnati.

“From a consistency standpoint you’d like to get Bernard more carries, more touches and Cedric has earned the right to be a feature back in this offense the last couple of years,” Gruden said. “The more you give it to Bernard the more you’ve got Cedric over there scratching his head and not real happy. Really, to me, on a good football team nobody should worry about who’s scoring or who’s getting the ball so long as the team is moving.”

If that seems like a subtle shot at Benson from Gruden, that certainly could be the case. Gruden inherited Benson, and though Benson has resurrected his career with the Bengals, the team might really want to see what they got when they drafted Scott with the sixth-round selection in 2009.

But the fact is that the Bengals have pounded Benson the past three years. In 2009 and 2010, he carried the ball 301 and 321 times, respectively, and though that number decreased to 273 this seasno, he still had the fourth-most attempts of any AFC running back.

Considering he lost some carries to Scott from the previous two years, Benson wasn’t happy with his team’s direction.

“I wasn’t a big fan of it,” Benson told the paper. “Granted I don’t make those decisions or calls and I have to find a way to make it work. It was something they started soon after the first game. There was a vision where they saw the offense going. I may not like it or agree with it but I’ll make it work if given the opportunity.”

Thing is, he might not get the opportunity. He signed a one-year, $3 million deal before the 2011 season, and that means he’s an unrestricted free agent who could make pretty decent money on the open market.

But considering these are some of the free agent running backs that will emerge this offseason -- Peyton Hillis, Michael Bush, Marshawn Lynch, Ryan Grant, and Mike Tolbert -- Benson has to worry about oversaturation. And if that’s the case, maybe he’s better off taking a few less carries and staying in Cincinnati

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com