After a season with the Cleveland Browns that was headlined with questionable injuries and contract negotiations, running back Peyton Hillis has become a free agent.
The hard-nosed rusher exploded onto the scene in 2010 with the Browns, but Hillis failed to deliver in 2011, could be leaving Cleveland via free agency. The Browns elected not to use the franchise tag on him, and despite talks that the team is trying to re-sign him, it seems incredibly unlikely at this point. If Hillis does end up looking for another team, should the Philadelphia Eagles be interested?
As a starter? Not a chance.
LeSean McCoy is one of the best in the NFL when he is hot, which is almost every Sunday, and the Eagles have no need to find a replacement. Where Philadelphia needs help is behind Shady, with a back-up running back. The Ronnie Brown plan busted last season, and the team actually tried to trade him away, but that plan fell through with injury complications on the other end of the deal. Needless to say, Brown won’t be back in Philly in 2012. Behind him, the Eagles have Dion Lewis, who is talented, but isn’t quite ready for an expanded role in the offense.
Philadelphia needs to add depth, or McCoy will run right into a serious injury with a heavy workload. Other teams in the NFL, like the Chicago Bears and Kansas City Chiefs, have learned this lesson the hard way. The Eagles can’t afford to lose McCoy, as he is arguably the best player on the offense, and is a key to Philadelphia’s long-term success. Adding depth, with a talented running back like Hillis, could push some of the work off of McCoy and add an entire other element to the offense.
Hillis, a power runner, could provide a spark in short yardage situations and in the red zone — two areas where the Eagles have been historically bad — and help push the offense to new heights. Philadelphia has a solid offensive unit, but are lacking that serious power threat out of the backfield. There hasn’t been one for the entire Andy Reid-Era, and is something that needs to be addressed.
An area of concern may be Hillis’ maturity, which has fluctuated back and forth during his time in Cleveland. But, it’s also possible that the entire situation was blown-up by the media, and Hillis’ image is inaccurate. Either way, it is something the Eagles should take into account before allowing him to sign on the dotted line. The last thing Philly needs is another DeSean Jackson scenario.
The biggest issue, however, is that the Eagles can’t overpay for Hillis.
A big problem with Hillis and the Browns was that the two sides were incredibly far apart on the total contract amount, and the Eagles can’t afford to overspend on a back-up running back. Hillis would play a big role in the offense, but his value is still that of a back-up. Philadelphia might have a tough time out-bidding other teams that could look to bring in the former Arkansas rusher with big contracts.
As long as the Eagles can sign Hillis at the right number, he would be a great pick-up. He would be an amazing threat in the red zone and in short yardage situations, and would provide depth behind McCoy. Philadelphia is only a few pieces away from being a serious Super Bowl contender, and bringing in a player like Hillis could push the Eagles’ offense into the very few truly elite in the NFL.
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