Browns Willing to Let Hillis Become Free Agent?

Cleveland Browns president Mike Holmgren indicated Thursday that contract extension negotiations with Peyton Hillis are at an impasse and seemed to indicate that the team is willing to roll the dice and let him become a free agent.

“Because of the nature of these types of negotiations, and if Peyton has a good year, he’ll have opportunities now because you’ll enter in free agency — legitimate free agency,” Holmgren said.

“Are we going to be a player in there to try and keep him here? Absolutely. Absolutely. I told him that yesterday.”

The Browns have several options – they can continue to work on a contract extension during the season, they can franchise tag him, or they can let him become a free agent and compete with the rest of the market to try to sign him.

They aren’t walking away from negotiations, which seems to still be the best option for the Browns, but they do seem willing to deal with free agency if they have to.  A franchise tag would give Hillis the average salary of the top five players at his position, which is probably more than they Browns want to pay.

“No one has called off negotiations,” Holmgren said. “It’s still kind of in that floating area where you’re waiting for a phone call, or you’re going to make a phone call, or whatever. But in the meantime, I talked with Peyton yesterday.”

“I like him. He’s a good guy, so that’s where it is.”

Hillis is not only one of the best players on the Browns, he’s also one of the most popular players on the team with the fans.  The best option for the Browns is to work hard to get something done during the season.  Free agency is likely to push the price up beyond what Cleveland wants to pay, and a franchise tag is equally expensive for them.

Hillis seems to want to stay, as he said earlier this month via Twitter, “I love the fans of Cleveland..the city that gave me a chance. I play hard in every play of every game.”

He then added, “I love this city and hope to retire here.”

There’s no excuse for the Browns not to get this extension done during the season.

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