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Situation between Browns, Hillis keeps getting weirder

Mike Holmgen

FILE - In this Sept. 18, 2011, file photo, Cleveland Browns president Mike Holmgren prowls the field before the start of an NFL football game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Browns in Indianapolis. Holmgren says contract negotiations with running back Peyton Hillis are “quiet now,” but the team remains open to signing him to a long-term extension. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)


Some so-called experts in the media assume that the Browns and running back Peyton Hillis will find a middle ground and agree to terms on a long-term deal that will keep the Madden cover boy in an orange helmet for years to come.

Those so-called experts need to be paying closer attention to the bizarre dynamics that have been playing out between the team and Hillis.

Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, updating her item from Thursday regarding the status of the negotiations, reports that the Browns are willing to let Hillis leave via free agency. In other words, the Browns don’t think he’s worth the one-year franchise tender for free agents. And they don’t think that another team would trade for him after the attachment of the franchise tag.

It may simply be a short-term ploy aimed at getting Hillis, who some think wants DeAngelo Williams money, to get more realistic. Or perhaps the Browns have decided to use Hillis up this year and move on to Montario Hardesty.

If that’s the case, then why didn’t the Browns try to trade Hillis? Team president Mike Holmgren claims that the Browns wouldn’t have traded one of their best players. If that’s the truth, then the Browns should be willing to apply the franchise tag to keep him around in 2012. (Of course, the truth may be no one called to inquire about trading for Hillis, even though the tea leaves made it damn clear that he would have been available.)

Either way, the situation between the team and the player is getting worse, not better. And perhaps he’ll only return to the Browns next year after hitting the open market and realizing that no one else will pay him more than the Browns are offering. It’s possible that no other team would pay him as much as the Browns are offering. The Browns apparently have decided that, until Hillis is force fed a little humble pie, he won’t be willing to sign for what the team thinks he’s actually worth.