Hill likely will have to compete for a roster spot, as his one-year, $1.5 million contract with the Patriots only includes $150,000 guaranteed (in the form of a signing bonus), Ben Volin of The Boston Globe reports.
Hill's 2017 campaign ended in November when he opted to have ankle surgery, finishing with 37 carries for 116 yards (3.1 average) without any touchdowns in seven games. He had either 222 or 223 carries and at least nine touchdowns in each of his first three seasons in Cincinnati, but had managed just 3.6 yards per carry in 2015 and 3.8 in 2016, after rumbling for 5.2 (1,124 rushing yards) as a rookie second-round pick in 2014. Now four years removed from that big season, Hill will need to make a strong impression in training camp to win a spot on the final roster. He'll likely be competing with Mike Gillislee for a power back role, with the loser potentially becoming a casualty before Week 1. Rex Burkhead and James White appear locked into roster spots, and Brandon Bolden always seems to stick around thanks to his value on special teams. Hill's ankle should be healthy at some point this offseason, if it isn't already.
Hill surprised his previous employer, the Bengals, when he underwent season-ending ankle surgery in early November. The impetus was his upcoming status as a free agent, but upon landing in New England, he joins a backfield populated by Rex Burkhead, James White and Mike Gillislee. Hill is a fair bet to be involved on a weekly basis, but consistency will be difficult to attain due to the situation.
Hill (ankle) is visiting the Patriots on Friday, Field Yates of ESPN reports.
This is Hill's first reported visit in free agency, with his downward career arc likely limiting interest around the league. He fell shy of four yards per carry each of the past three seasons, but he at least stayed healthy and scored a plethora of short touchdowns in 2015 and 2016, whereas last season he played seven games (zero TDs) before landing on injured reserve with an ankle injury. The 25-year-old likely will need to reprove himself wherever he ends up signing, be it in New England or elsewhere. The Patriots are looking for help in a backfield that lost Dion Lewis but retained Rex Burkhead, along with James White and Mike Gillislee. The Pats may envision Hill and Gillislee competing for the power role in their offense.
Hill (ankle) doesn't expect to be a Bengal for the 2018 season, Jim Owczarski of The Cincinnati Enquirer reports. "Been one hell of a ride Cincinnati on to the next chapter," Hill posted on his personal Twitter page.
Hill made his last appearance of the campaign Week 8, eventually opting for season-ending ankle surgery with his impending free agency in mind. The writing seemed to be on the wall when the Bengals selected Joe Mixon in the second round of the 2017 draft, and Hill's workload didn't exceed eight touches in any of his seven appearances. Once Hill hits the open market in March, the 25-year-old will be able to point to certain bullet points on his resume. As a rookie in 2014, he posted a career-best 1,124 rushing yards, reeling them off at 5.1 YPC. Furthermore, he combined for 30 touchdowns in his first three seasons before the abbreviated one in 2017.
The Bengals for some reason thought Hill would try to play through the injury and put off surgery until the offseason -- an approach that wouldn't make much sense for an impending free agent with a very limited role. This presumably seals Hill's fate in Cincinnati, where the Bengals will happily move forward with Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard, likely hoping that offensive line renovations can get the running game back on track next offseason. Hill hasn't done much of note besides scoring goal-line touchdowns since his rookie season, but he should at least have time to get healthy before 2018 training camp, at which point he'll likely be competing for a role with a new team. It's hard to imagine any franchise would sign him with a clear-cut lead role in mind. Hill will finish out the 2017 campaign on injure reserve.
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