I am a little bit surprised that Peyton Hillis’ contract hasn’t been a topic of conversation thus far this pre-season. Even though we constantly hear what a nice, humble and pleasant guy Peyton Hillis is – and I’ve now seen it with my own eyes at camp – I still can’t believe we haven’t talked about his contract status. Peyton Hillis is still on his rookie deal from the 2008 draft when he was selected 227th in the 7th round by Denver. This season he is set to make a paltry (at least by NFL standards) $555,000.
Despite being the John Madden video game cover boy, Hillis truly is just a one-year wonder at this point. Still, that was a pretty substantial year as Hillis was 6th in the NFL in terms of yards from scrimmage. He had some fumbling problems as well, but let’s not pretend like he and his agent couldn’t have postured their way into forcing the Cleveland Browns to give him an extension sooner than the expiration date on his contract.
Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans is far more accomplished by Peyton Hillis at this point in his career by a long shot. One stat that they don’t put on Pro-Football-Reference is the number of holdouts or threatened holdouts. Johnson leads Hillis in that category 2-0. Chris Johnson out-performed his deal too, but he was playing on a deal that paid him as a low first rounder and guaranteed him at least $7 million. Peyton Hillis signed a four-year $1.755 million dollar contract with a signing bonus of – get this – $49,800. So, feel free to pro-rate that signing bonus onto Peyton Hillis’ $555k and you can take it all the way up to an effective salary for this season of $567,450.
Is it any wonder that Peyton Hillis is now selling signed memorabilia on his new website with his new Twitter account and Facebook page? You might also think that Peyton Hillis’ newfound Madden money might be holding him over until his deal runs out. That might not really be true. According to Darren Rovell in the past, EA Sports pays far below “market” for the cover of Madden because they view it like the Wheaties box where the athlete gets a substantial rise to their profile and marketability. He has mentioned figures in the $100,000 – $200,000 range in the past.
Browns fans should be thankful that Peyton Hillis is practicing and planning on honoring a deal that he clearly has outperformed. It hasn’t been a distraction. Still, the logical business part of my brain is wondering if maybe he and his reps wouldn’t have been smarter to hold out. For all the Chris Johnson type situations where fans are divided, there is an undrafted guy like Antonio Gates who most were willing to accept couldn’t afford to even step on the field without a new deal. Back in 2005, that holdout resulted in a 6-year deal for about $24 million.
To this point, I don’t think Hillis has even been asked about his contract. We all know he hasn’t brought it up. Does it have anything to do with his ethics? Are he and his agents gambling with the idea that he can make even more money after this season if he can put up similar numbers to what he did in 2010? Considering all this, it kind of puts the $250 signed Browns jersey, $60 signed picture, or $375 signed helmet that Hillis is selling on his website in perspective.