Without a doubt the breakout star of the 2010 NFL season was Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis. The former fullback went from an afterthought in Denver, to the starting running back for the Browns. Now, it looks like he will be rewarded for that effort.
Hillis and the Browns are currently discussing a new contract, and several sources confirm that those discussions are getting more and more serious. The Browns have $18 million in cap room available this season, so the chances that Hillis gets a competitive deal are very good.
There are questions about Hillis’ durability and whether or not he can take the pounding of a full season at running back. He missed time with a rib injury last year and has been slowed by a lingering back issue this preseason, but no one doubts his toughness.
Now that the Browns have locked up left tackle Joe Thomas with a seven-year extension and have installed Colt McCoy as their starting quarterback, getting a deal done with the 25-year-old Hillis is clearly the team’s next priority.
After getting just 81 carries in his first two NFL seasons, Hillis burst onto the scene last year. He finished the season with 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns on 270 carries. He also caught 61 passes for 477 yards and two more touchdowns. On top of that, his running style resonated with fans, not just in Cleveland but throughout the NFL. He became so popular that the public elected him as the cover boy for Madden 12.
Hillis is set to make just $550,000 this year, but don’t expect that to be the case for very long. The Browns would be wise to get a deal done with their top rusher as soon as possible.