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Saturday, March 3, 2012
Wake-up: Hillis open to hometown discount

By Jamison Hensley

Every morning, grab a cup of coffee and get your AFC North wake-up call here:

Peyton Hillis told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that he is willing to take a "hometown discount" to stay with the Browns, but the running back thinks the team wants him to test free agency, which begins March 13.

"I've always loved this city and I still do love it and I still want to play for the Cleveland Browns," Hillis told the paper. "I'm not sure who wants me there and who doesn't want me there. It's out of my hands at this point. They've said they might want to re-sign me. If I was this horrible person, if I wasn't tough and if I was that big of a mental case, why would they still want to sign me? No matter what happens, I think I proved again and again wherever I go I think I'll make a splash.''

Hillis denied an ESPN report that said he contemplated retirement and thought about joining the CIA. He also said he fired agent Kennard McGuire because he wasn't able to get anything done with the Browns.

Hensley's slant: What's the first rule of the CIA? Oh wait, that was "Fight Club." I get those two mixed up. As far as Hillis' future, he seems like he is willing to work with the Browns to return. For some reason, I get the feeling that he could end up in New England, where the Patriots have made a living off reclamation projects.

BENGALS: Getting the franchise tag is not good for your long-term future with the Bengals, who placed the tag on kicker Mike Nugent on Friday. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the past three times the Bengals have used the franchise tag, the player has left the following year. The most recent was three years ago with kicker Shayne Graham. Hensley's slant: I believe Nugent will break this streak. He proved to be a reliable weapon for the Bengals last season, setting the team record for field goals (33). My guess is Cincinnati will reward him either this year or next with a long-term contract.

RAVENS: The Ravens cut cornerback Chris Carr and wide receiver Lee Evans on Friday. But did the team cut all ties with those high-priced veterans? Comcast SportsNet pointed out this quote from general manager Ozzie Newsome: "As we talked about when we informed Chris and Lee of these moves, this does not close the door on them coming back to the Ravens." Hensley's slant: Carr could still have value to the Ravens as the fourth cornerback, but only at a discounted price. I really can't see the Ravens bringing back Evans, who lost a step as well as all of his confidence last season.

STEELERS: The Steelers cut inside linebacker James Farrior on Friday, but replacing him won't be easy, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review's Scott Brown. "Farrior quarterbacked the defense for a decade, making on-field adjustments as skillfully as he plugged running lanes," Brown wrote. "He started all 154 games he played for the Steelers, made two Pro Bowls, earned team MVP honors in 2004 and served as a defensive captain for eight consecutive seasons." Hensley's slant: The release of Farrior was one that caught me off guard. I thought the Steelers would cut backup Larry Foote and keep Farrior. Instead, the Steelers did the reverse.