Wonder if Peyton Hillis and DeSean Jackson Are Struggling Because Their Next Contract is On Their Mind?

Peyton Hillis was an NFL breakout star in 2010: 1,177 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns. The Browns looked brilliant in heisting him from Denver for Brady Quinn. And now, the problem with Hillis: Due to the NFL lockout, Hillis couldn’t get a deal done, and despite a career-making 2010 season, he’s only making a paltry $600,000 in 2011.

In a perfect world, Hillis would have parlayed his 2010 campaign into big bucks. But now he’s got to duplicate those numbers in 2011 while avoiding injury.

DeSean Jackson is in the same boat: Ridiculous stats – in 2009 and 2010 – but he’s only making $769k. (Some argue Jackson isn’t worth big bucks; obviously, not everyone agrees.) This list of every receiver who makes more than Jackson will certainly leave you shaking your head.

But Hillis and Jackson are both struggling in 2011. Hillis has rushed for just 197 yards and two scores. He missed a game two weeks ago due to illness – on gameday, Hillis reportedly had a temperate of 103 and the illness caused him to lose 10 pounds – but now there are whispers in the locker room that maybe Hillis missed the game because the contract situation is in his head. Last week against Tennessee, Hillis had just 10 carries and Colt McCoy threw a franchise-record 61 passes.

Jackson’s 2011 stats (16 catches, 324 yards, one TD) are nowhere near what he did the last two years. He’s not stretching the defense and he’s not going over the middle as much (two concussions could be a reason). Think Jackson’s playing it safe, how he can stay healthy, and then get a lucrative contract next year?

So instead of trying to blow up and explode in hopes of landing a massive contract (think Cedric Benson and Miles Austin last year), Hillis and Jackson almost seem to be … coasting, in hopes of using their 2010 stats to land a new deal. If the Browns try to lowball Hillis, I’m sure he’ll have plenty of suitors. Jackson’s a more difficult situation to peg, since he won’t fit into every offense, and at 5-10, 175, he obviously isn’t a No. 1 receiver.

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