The Peyton Hillis drama has continued into free agency, and as we mentioned in an earlier article, his quest to ink a multi-year contract will have to be achieved without the help of his now former agent, Kennard McGuire.
For Hillis, it is time to decide whether or not he will accept an offer from the Browns, rumored to be in the ballpark of ten million over three years. For the Browns, it’s time to decide if that is really worth it.
So what would I do if I were the Browns?
The answer is simple. The Browns must sign Hillis to an incentive-laden contract with the base of about 3.5 million a year, as has been discussed. The upside Hillis has far exceeds the risk that this contract would create.
But after signing Hillis, the backfield is not complete. Hillis as an every-down back seems as though it may be wishful thinking. His bruising style makes him an injury risk and, more importantly, a risk to wear down as a season progresses. Accordingly, the Browns must bring in a change-of-pace back via the draft that can spell Hillis and create a matchup problem for defenses (I’m sorry, but I’m done waiting for Montario Hardesty to get healthy, and he isn’t even that impressive even when he is healthy).
So, who might this scat back be?
That’s easy – it’s Oregon’s LaMichael James. At the NFL Combine last week, James ran a 4.45 40-yard dash and displayed great agility in the cone drill. He is also a smart kid who has always been considered a hard worker. Yet, after leading the nation in rushing in 2010, James’ 2011 campaign was slowed by a dislocated elbow and is now projected as a third-round pick. Many experts feel that James’ small frame – he checked in at the Combine at 5’8″ and 194 pounds – prohibits him from being able to become an every-down back in the NFL.
But the Browns wouldn’t have to ask James to be an every-down back. Rather, he would be the ideal complement to Hillis and add a much needed Darren Sproles-like speedster element to the Brown and Orange backfield.
Drafting James to play alongside Hillis would provide the Browns with a backfield that is eerily similar to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ old tandem of Mike Alstott and Warrick Dunn, which was inarguably an effective duo (Worth mentioning, if James is drafted by the Browns, he would have to get over his fear of roller coasters in case the team takes a trip to Cedar Point).
Signing Peyton Hillis is a step in the right direction, but it cannot be the final destination. The Browns must couple a Hillis signing with a mid-to-late-round draft pick on a speedy running back like Oregon’s LaMichael James.
As a Browns fan, I rarely get what I want, but is this too much to ask?