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Peyton Hillis leaves Browns and signs with Chiefs

Cleveland Browns Peyton Hillis (40) make a cut behind the block of Lawrence Vickers on New England Patriots David Bowens during the third quarter of their NFL football game in Cleveland, Ohio November 7, 2010. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

The Peyton Hillis saga is finally over. It’s a shame, as Hillis was perfect for the AFC North and had the talent to be the feature back in Cleveland for years. But his 2010 success went to his head, and the Browns weren’t going to give him a big contract after the disastrous 2011 season.

The Hillis meltdown is the prime reason why the Browns offense collapsed last year. The Browns had a new system, young wide receivers and an unproven quarterback. The challenges were significant, but we had a beast in Hillis. Sure, Pat Shurmer may not have used Hillis well at first, but having him in the backfield was critical.

With all the drama and then the hamstring injury, Hillis spent too much time on the bench, leaving Colt McCoy with inexperienced backs who were terrible in blitz pick-up. The results were ugly.

The Browns will move on, and Hillis will probably do well in KC under Brian Daboll. But anyone who blames the Browns here are just looking for something to complain about. The Browns gave Hillis a fair offer last year, but he went through three agents, and then became a problem in the locker room. He’s responsible for the mess he created.

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Browns sign Bengals DE Frostee Rucker

It was interesting watching Twitter over the past several days, as many Browns fans started freaking out immediately when the Browns didn’t make an immediate signing. Some in the media fanned the flames of stupidity, with Tony Rizzo going on an epic rant, which is typical for Rizz – all emotion, zero analysis.

The Browns are not going to build this team by emulating Daniel Snyder and other buffoons who think you can buy a championship through free agency. The smart teams like Pittsburgh, New England and Green Bay rarely make a splash in March by breaking the bank for free agents. They do the opposite – they release their guys when they become too expensive.

The Browns did make a move, signing Bengals defensive end Frostee Rucker.

6. So who is Frostee Rucker, the defensive end signed by the Browns? He is consider a very solid player against the run. For what it’s worth, Profootballfocus.com rated Rucker the No. 13 defender among ends in a 4-3 defense against the run. He played 43 percent of the snaps for the Bengals last season — 259 runs, 213 passes. He had four sacks, two quarterback hits and five quarterback pressures. He wasn’t flagged for a penalty. So his specialty is against the run.

7. Signing him to a 5-year, $21 million deal ($8 million guaranteed) means the Browns believe Rucker is capable of playing most of the snaps at right end. He will replace Jayme Mitchell, who was handed the right end spot and couldn’t keep it. He had only 1.5 sacks and seemed invisible by the final month of the season.

This is not a sexy signing, but it’s the kind of thing smart teams do in free agency – plug holes and add depth. The Browns defense was much better last year, but they we still atrocious against the run. We all love hearing about pass rushers, but adding a defensive end that plays the run well is very important to this team.

Perhaps the Browns won’t draft a pass rusher high now in the draft, but I suspect Heckert has his eyes on some players he’d like to add, so we may see Rucker sharing time with more of a pass rush specialist who comes in on passing downs while Rucker anchors the right end position.

Tom Heckert’s plan

With all the hysteria surrounding the Browns, particularly on Cleveland sports talk radio, it’s refreshing to see that some of then actually get it. Micheal Reghi is one of the few people on WKNR who makes rational arguments as opposed to emotional outbursts or continuous snark and negativity.

Reghi points out in an article how Tom Heckert has a plan, and it’s the only strategy that makes sense. You have to build through the draft.

Don’t tell me you’d be willing ‘to ride that out’. I’m not buying it. And I DON’T WANT to roll that way. The Browns must take some significant steps this season to make you believe that Heckert’s formula is working. He knows that. Mike Holmgren does too. And the largest reason why I’ve been able to endure the 4-12 of 2012 is I’m completely aware, as are others around the NFL, exactly what Tom Heckert walked into in February of 2010. The WORST ROSTER in the NFL! Don’t believe me? Here goes. The following are STARTERS on both sides of the ball, brought here by head coach, general manager, director of pro personnel, top decision maker, and all omnipotent one, Eric Mangini. You ready for this?

The Browns had one of the oldest teams in the NFL under Eric Mangini, and now we have one of the youngest. Read the whole article, as it’s stunning to see some of the names of players what were starting under Mangini.

You can’t remake a roster overnight, and 4-12 seasons hurt. But tons of young players got experience last year and we have an extra first-round pick this year. Youth will ultimately prevail if you hit on your draft picks.

Status of the RG3 sweepstakes

Robert Griffin III. UPI/John Angelillo

Rumors are all over the place when it comes to Robert Griffin III and possible trade partners for the St. Louis Rams for the #2 pick in the NFL Draft. Some of the speculation has gotten out of control, but everyone needs to keep in mind that free agency will have a huge impact on the RG3 market, and that the Rams might need to make this deal as soon as possible, as their leverage with teams like Cleveland and Washington might dry up as players like Peyton Manning and Matt Flynn hit the market.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a helpful update of the status of the trade talks.

So far, however, the quarterback-needy teams don’t seem to be in a hurry to get Griffin. They might be waiting to see what happens with Manning, Flynn and the others. They might be waiting to do their due diligence and watch Griffin throw at his pro day March 21.

In the meantime, the Rams are talking and will continue to talk with potential trade partners. According to league sources, this was the trade landscape entering the weekend:

• Cleveland (No. 4 pick): The Browns are unwilling at this point to include their second first-round pick, No. 22, as part of any trade package with the Rams.

• Washington (No. 6): The Redskins appear willing to trade their first-round pick next year, as well as their No. 6 overall pick this year. But they aren’t willing to include their second-rounder this year, which isn’t acceptable to the Rams.

• Miami (No. 8): This one appears to be dead in the water, somewhere off Florida’s Gold Coast. After losing the tug-of-war for coach Jeff Fisher, the Dolphins aren’t eager to do business with the Rams — or do the Rams any favors.

• Seattle (No. 12): No chance. The last thing the Rams want to do is send RG3 to a division rival and face him twice a year. The same applies for Arizona, which picks 13th.

I’ll be surprised if a team like the Browns is able to snag the #2 pick without including their extra first-round selection in this year’s draft (#22 overall), but anything is possible if the other suitors go with other options.

This column does throw cold water on some of the reports out there that the Redskins were making a ridiculous offer for the pick, and the Browns are clearly being cautious or coy here.

RG3 blew everyone away at the Combine, and there’s every reason to expect him to impress on his pro day as well, but it’s hard to imagine teams giving up the farm for the #2 pick without watching this kid throw in person. A pre-draft draft is still very possible, but the Rams may have to wait as Thomas explains in his article.

Hat tip: Hiram Boyd

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