A year ago at this time, it didn't seem like re-signing Peyton Hillis would be any kind of problem. The fullback turned tailback had one of the biggest seasons by a running back in the NFL, and got selected as the cover boy for the newest Madden video game.
It looked like the Browns not only fleeced the Denver Broncos in a trade, but it looked like they had a big time running back to build the offense around.
Injuries, distractions, contract disputes, and a variety of other things have caused Hillis' fortunes with the Browns to go South, in a big way, but apparently the team is happy enough with him that they are willing to bring him back if the price is right, per the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Hillis said after the Browns' December 24th battle that the Browns are like a second family to him:
"I'm a Cleveland Brown at heart," he said. "Since I've been here, I fell in love with the fans and the city and the people that live here. They've been nothing but 100 percent supportive through everything when I talk to them. And it's good to have a second family backing me like that."
ESPN analyst Jamison Hensley is not sold right now that Hillis is the right fit for the Browns, and that too many bridges have been burned:
"This just reeks of desperation on the Browns' part. When a player reportedly needs an intervention-style meeting from teammates, it's a strong sign that he has become a distraction. Sure, the Browns need playmakers on offense in the worst way. But building the right chemistry in the locker room has to become a priority, too."
Keep in mind that the Browns have a shot at Alabama running back Trent Richardson, should he fall past the third pick as he is expected to. Richardson is considered the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson came along back in 2007, and I think you'd have to look really long and hard about bringing him in if indeed you let Hillis go, possibly even if you keep Hillis around at a reduced price.
Hillis had a poor 2011 season, but we all know what he's capable of and it's just a matter of whether or not he can get back to the 2010 version of himself. If he can, he is worth the money. If he can't, it's a wasted investment on a guy who just spent a good part of the year bringing down the team and the locker room.