Ronnie Hillman

Former Broncos RB Ronnie Hillman Dies At 31

Ronnie Hillman, a former running back who led the 2015 Broncos’ Super Bowl-winning team in rushing, has died. He was 31.

Hillman’s family announced his passing Thursday morning. Former teammates Orlando Franklin and Derek Wolfe, respectively, said the five-year NFL veteran entered hospice care this week after a bout with liver cancer and pneumonia. Hillman was diagnosed with renal medullary carcinoma, a disease that is “a rare but highly aggressive neoplasm form of cancer that primarily affects young African Americans with sickle cell trait,” Troy Renck of Denver7 writes.

The Broncos drafted Hillman in the third round out of San Diego State in 2012. The selection came when Hillman was just 20. He had declared for the draft after totaling 3,243 rushing yards and 36 touchdowns as an Aztecs underclassman. A Long Beach, Calif., native, Hillman played in Snoop Dogg’s youth football league and had said that time allowed him to shape his focus toward a football career. Despite only playing two years at San Diego State, Hillman remains fifth on the school’s all-time rushing list.

After Hillman had totaled 573 scrimmage yards and four touchdowns for a 12-4 Denver team in 2014, new head coach Gary Kubiak installed the 5-foot-9 speed back as his starter midway through the following season. Hillman amassed 863 rushing yards and seven touchdowns in his fourth NFL season, teaming with C.J. Anderson to form a solid ground attack for the eventual Super Bowl-winning team. Hillman surpassed 100 rushing yards four times in 2015, including a 117-yard season finale that helped the Broncos secure home-field advantage.

Following the expiration of his rookie contract, Hillman finished his career in an eight-game 2016 season — spent with the Vikings and Chargers — before retiring. His death comes barely a year after Broncos teammate Demaryius Thomas died at age 33.

Redskins Audition RB Ronnie Hillman

With Rob Kelley dealing with multiple injuries to his left knee, the Redskins auditioned several free agent running backs today. According to ESPN’s Field Yates (via Twitter), the team worked out Ronnie Hillman and Daryl Richardson.

Ronnie Hillman (vertical)Coach Jay Gruden confirmed earlier today that Kelley suffered a high ankle sprain and an MCL sprain. The 25-year-old is set to miss several games, leaving the team with only a pair of healthy running backs in Samaje Perine and Chris Thompson. The three running backs have each had an opportunity to establish themselves atop the depth chart this season, with Thompson leading the way with 771 all-purpose yards.

Hillman signed with the Cowboys during the offseason, be he was ultimately released prior to the start of the regular season. He appeared in eight games (one start) with the Vikings and Chargers last season, compiling 131 rushing yards on 41 carries. It’s only been two seasons since Hillman broke out with 863 rushing yards, but the 26-year-old hasn’t been able to find a consistent gig since.

Richardson has only appeared in 11 games since 2013, spending time with the Jets, Texans, Browns, Steelers, Jaguars, and Colts. His best season came in 2012, when he ran for 475 yards and hauled in 24 receptions for 163 yards.

Cowboys Trim Roster To 53

The Cowboys navigated the busy cut week and moved down to the 53-man limit. Here are the players Dallas removed from its roster to reach the regular-season standard.



Placed on Reserved/Suspended list:

Placed on IR:

NFC East Notes: OBJ, Cowboys, Redskins

The Giants aren’t prioritizing a new contract for wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who’s under control at eminently affordable prices through next season. If they do attempt to lock up Beckham down the line, it doesn’t seem that it’s going to be an easy negotiation. Beckham told on Thursday that he’s aiming to eventually become the NFL’s highest-paid player (via Paul Schwartz of the New York Post). “It’s like the elephant in the room and you don’t want to talk about it,’’ said Beckham. “I’ve gotten to a point in my life where I’m like, there’s no need to not talk about it. I believe that I will be, hopefully not just the highest-paid receiver in the league, but the highest paid, period.”

As great as Beckham has been during his three-year career, the top-paid honor tends to belong to a quarterback. That’s the case right now, with the Raiders’ Derek Carr‘s just-signed deal (five years, $125MM-plus) atop the heap on an annual basis. The Steelers’ Antonio Brown leads all receivers in yearly pay ($17MM per on a four-year, $68MM accord), but he lags far behind Carr. And it might be awhile before the 24-year-old Beckham is even able to challenge Brown and the league’s other richest wideouts, given that the Giants will have the option of placing the franchise tag on him for tolerable costs in both 2019 and ’20 if he’s unsigned. In the meantime, Beckham’s set to play this year for $1.8MM – a pittance relative to his production – and the Giants picked up his $8.5MM fifth-year option for 2018.

More on New York and two of its NFC East rivals:

  • The Cowboys’ signing of running back Ronnie Hillman on Thursday has nothing to do with a potential suspension for Ezekiel Elliott, reports David Moore of the Dallas Morning News. Rather, the Cowboys added Hillman as both a possible Lance Dunbar replacement and someone capable of accruing touches during the summer and taking some of the stress off the team’s other backs in the coming weeks. As for Elliott, who was bracing for a suspension two weeks ago, the NFL probably won’t announce his fate until later in the preseason, per Moore.
  • Redskins outside linebacker Trent Murphy underwent offseason surgery to repair a broken bone in his foot, according to JP Finlay of CSN Mid-Atlantic. Murphy is now healed, but he still won’t factor into the Redskins’ early season plans as a result of the four-game performance-enhancing drugs suspension the NFL handed him in April. When he returns in Week 6 (the Redskins have a Week 5 bye), the nine-sack man from 2016 will look to continue that strong production in a contract year.
  • Giants coach Ben McAdoo told reporters on Thursday that defensive end Owa Odighizuwa has reported to camp (Twitter link via Schwartz). Odighizuwa stayed away from the Giants during the offseason on account of personal issues.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Cowboys To Sign RB Ronnie Hillman

The Cowboys are signing veteran running back Ronnie Hillman, a source tells Adam Schefter of (on Twitter). Hillman auditioned for the Cowboys earlier this week, along with ex-Jaguars running back Denard Robinson.Ronnie Hillman

[RELATED: Zac Dysert Likely To Miss Season]

Dallas already has Ezekiel ElliottAlfred Morris, and Darren McFadden on the depth chart, but they’re reportedly still looking for someone to fill Lance Dunbar‘s shoes in the RB4 role. Hillman could be the man for the job and that could spell bad news for undrafted running back Jahad Thomas and fullback Keith Smith.

Hillman was once a key part of the Broncos’ offense, but he has not been the same player since his surprising release from Denver before last season. Hillman appeared in eight games with the Chargers and Vikings, compiling only 131 yards on 41 carries (3.2 yards per carry). In 2015, however, he posted career highs in yards (863) and yards per carry (4.2).

Cowboys Won’t Sign RBs “At This Time”

The Cowboys worked out a pair of veteran running backs yesterday, but it doesn’t sound like a signing is imminent. According to’s Todd Archer (via Twitter), the Cowboys are not planning on signing either Ronnie Hillman or Denard Robinson “at this time.”

Ronnie Hillman (vertical)The workouts could have purely been exploratory, especially when you consider that the Cowboys are rostering an impressive trio of running backs in Ezekiel Elliott, Alfred Morris, and Darren McFadden. For what it’s worth, the team did carry four running backs last season, with Lance Dunbar (who has since signed with the Rams) collecting 31 rushing yards on nine carries while also catching 16 passes for 122 yards. The Cowboys are also currently rostering undrafted running back Jahad Thomas and fullback Keith Smith.

Of course, the Cowboys could also be looking to cover their tracks in case Elliott is suspended. We learned yesterday that the NFL’s investigation was wrapping up, although we probably won’t learn of any discipline until next week. The organization could simply be delaying a running back signing until they get more clarity on their 22-year-old star.

Neither Robinson or Hillman were particularly productive last season. Hillman appeared in eight games with the Chargers and Vikings, compiling only 131 yards on 41 carries. Robinson finished the season with 144 yards on the same amount of attempts. The two running backs have plenty of pass-catching experience, with the duo having combined for four 20-plus reception seasons.

Cowboys Work Out Ronnie Hillman

Denard Robinson isn’t the only veteran running back getting consideration from the Cowboys. The team also auditioned Ronnie Hillman on Thursday, according to Field Yates of (on Twitter). Ronnie Hillman (vertical)

[RELATED: Cowboys Work Out Denard Robinson]

It appears that the Cowboys are looking into reserve running backs on the cusp of training camp. While they arguably have the best trio of running backs in the NFL (Ezekiel Elliott, Darren McFadden, and Alfred Morris), the Cowboys are still looking at ways to bolster the unit.

Hillman, 26 in September, was a surprise cut by the Broncos before the 2016 season. Last year, he spent time with the Vikings and Chargers, but he didn’t do a whole lot with his 41 combined carries. Hillman’s 131 rushing yards left him with a career-low 3.2 yards per carry average and he had zero touchdowns for the first time in his five-year career.

Extra Points: Mexico, Saints, Packers, Broncos

Could Donald Trump’s campaign promises affect the NFL’s games staged in Mexico? The league says that won’t be the case.

I’m a firm believer that any international focus requires you to manage within the political climate that exists,” NFL executive vice president/International Mark Waller told Alex Marvez of The Sporting News. “You can’t control what government is or is not in place. Our job irrespective of that is doing everything we can do to expand the popularity of our sport.”

The NFL estimates that it has 28.3 million fans in Mexico with 9.9 million categorized as “hardcore” supporters. The league does big business south of the border and hopes to grow the fanbase going forward.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • The Saints added Kevin O’Dea as an assistant coach to help with their struggling special teams, as Christopher Dabe of The Times-Picayune writes. “I think when you have some struggles in an area immediately I think the reaction is people want heads to fly,” Payton said. “I think for us, it’s about bringing in someone that can help. I think [special teams coordinator] Greg [McMahon] and [special teams assistant] Stan [Kwan] and those guys, this is a low-ego business. We want to win, and that’s the most important thing. So a guy like Kevin I think can help us. He was fired up. He got in here (Monday) afternoon.”
  • Packers inside linebacker Blake Martinez is expected to miss multiple games with an MCL sprain, a source tells Adam Caplan of (on Twitter). The fourth-round pick has started nine games for Green Bay this year.
  • The Broncos placed a claim on running back Ronnie Hillman, tweets Mike Klis of 9News in Denver (via Twitter). The 25-year-old was waived by the Vikings yesterday and landed on the Chargers today.

Ben Levine contributed to this report.

Chargers Claim Ronnie Hillman

It didn’t take long for Ronnie Hillman to find a new job. A day after getting waived by the Vikings, the running back has been claimed by the Chargers (via ESPN’s Field Yates on Twitter). Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune tweets that the team has waived wideout Griff Whalen to make the necessary roster room.

Ronnie Hillman (vertical)This is a bit of a homecoming for the 25-year-old, as Hillman was a former standout at San Diego State. The running back signed a one-year deal to stay with the Broncos this offseason, but he was ultimately cut by the team in early September. Following Adrian Peterson‘s injury, the Vikings signed the four-year veteran. Before joining Minnesota, Hillman also auditioned for the Chargers.

In five games with Minnesota, Hillman compiled 50 yards on 18 carries. In 53 career games, the running back has averaged four yards per carry, and he has also hauled in 71 career receptions. 2015 was arguably Hillman’s best season, as the running back ran for 863 yards and seven touchdowns.

Despite the emergence of Melvin Gordon, the Chargers running backs have struggled with injuries in 2016. The team has already lost Danny Woodhead, Dexter McCluster, and Branden Oliver for the season. Hillman will presumably compete with undrafted free agent Kenneth Farrow for back-up running back carries.

Whalen played eight games for the Chargers this season, collecting two catches for 22 yards.

Vikings Cut Ronnie Hillman

Ronnie Hillman‘s time in Minnesota is through. The Vikings announced that Hillman has been waived. To fill his spot on the roster, defensive end Stephen Weatherly has been signed from the practice squad. Ronnie Hillman (vertical)

Hillman signed with the Vikings in September after Adrian Peterson was placed on injured reserve. Since then, he has posted a grand total of 50 yards off of 18 carries plus four catches for 43 yards. On Sunday, he had only two rushing attempts, the latest sign that he was being pushed further down in the pecking order.

Hillman‘s deal with the Vikings was a one-year pact worth the prorated league minimum of $760K with no guaranteed money, so the Vikings won’t be on the hook for anything going forward. The Broncos had offset language on the $400K in guaranteed salary owed to Hillman, so they have now been relieved of most or all of that debt.

Weatherly, a seventh-round pick in this year’s draft, signed with the Vikings’ taxi squad after missing the final cut. The Vanderbilt product will slot behind Danielle Hunter and Justin Trattou as reserve bookends behind Brian Robison and Everson Griffen. He could also contribute as an outside linebacker.