Kevin Stefanski eager for versatile cornerback Troy Hill to play 'big role' for Browns
Troy Hill's specific role with the Browns isn't set in stone, but coach Kevin Stefanski expects it to be significant.
The Browns announced Hill signed with them Monday after the former Los Angeles Rams cornerback agreed last week to join the club as an unrestricted free agent.
Hill's contract is technically for four years, but the last two can be voided, so it's essentially a two-year, $9 million deal that can reach $10 million with incentives, a person familiar with the situation said. It contains $4.5 million guaranteed.
A Youngstown native, Hill has experience playing cornerback on the outside and covering slot receivers as a nickelback. He played primarily in the slot last season, when he started all 18 games, including two in the playoffs.
"Troy fits in great," Stefanski said in a news release. "He was a very productive player out there in Los Angeles. Played inside and outside, he makes plays on the ball, he is part of the front, he is good in coverage, so really looking forward to having him play a big role in this defense."
If the Browns need a starter on the outside opposite 2018 Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward, Hill could do it. Terrance Mitchell filled the role last season, but he agreed to terms last week with the Houston Texans.
And although the Browns are optimistic about the progress Greedy Williams has made on the comeback trail, they needed insurance for the 2019 second-round draft pick from Louisiana State University because nerve damage in a shoulder prevented him from playing last season.
If Williams is healthy or the Browns find another starter at outside cornerback elsewhere — free agency, trade or the April 29-May 1 draft — Hill could replace Kevin Johnson as the defense's main nickelback. Johnson struck a deal last week to join the Tennessee Titans.
The Browns hope the second scenario plays out. They view Hill manning the nickelback position as plan A.
Hill, who will turn 30 on Aug. 29, entered the NFL in 2015, when he signed with the Cincinnati Bengals as an undrafted free agent from the University of Oregon. He spent the past five seasons with the Rams after being claimed off waivers from the New England Patriots.
In 2020, Hill led the NFL with three defensive touchdowns — interceptions returned 35 and 84 yards and a fumble recovery returned 20 yards. He had the most productive season of his career with 77 tackles, 10 passes defensed, three interceptions, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. ProFootballFocus.com ranked him 27th among the 121 qualifying cornerbacks the website graded last year.
The Rams finished last season first in the NFL in fewest points (18.5), yards (281.9) and passing yards (190.7) allowed per game.
Safety John Johnson III has inside information about what Hill meant to the Rams because they were teammates in Los Angeles. Johnson signed a three-year, $33.75 million contract with the Browns last week.
"I'm glad we have [Hill]," Johnson said Friday on Zoom. "I know you all will love him here. It's going to be fun."
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.