Ronnie Hillman was almost a Denver Bronco again.
The running back was placed on waivers Monday by the Minnesota Vikings after playing sparingly for the team this season. The Broncos did place a claim on Hillman, league sources told 9NEWS.
However, the AFC West-rival San Diego Chargers also placed a claim on Hillman and because they have a worse record than the Broncos, Hillman was awarded to his hometown team.
The 4-6 Chargers were No. 11 on the waiver claim order. The 7-3 Broncos were No. 28. Although Hillman has greater than 4 years of NFL service time, all players are subject to waivers once the in-season trading deadline expires.
Hillman grew up in Southern California and played two years at San Diego State before he was selected by the Broncos in the third round of the 2012 draft. He played the four previous seasons with the Broncos, serving as their starting running back for them most of last season.
A free agent after last season, Hillman re-signed with the Broncos on a one-year, $2 million contract. The team released him, in part to save $1.8 million of his salary, as part of their final 53-man roster cuts in early September.
Hillman signed with the Vikings after that team lost superstar running back Adrian Peterson for an extended time with a knee injury. However, in nine weeks with the Vikings, Hillman only had 50 yards on 18 carries. And because he doesn’t play special teams, it became increasingly difficult for the Vikings to carry him on their roster.
Placing a waiver claim on Hillman made sense for the Broncos for two reasons.
One, the knee injury to starting tailback C.J. Anderson in game 7 against Houston on Oct. 24, left the Broncos thin at running back in both numbers and experience. Their top two running backs now, rookie Devontae Booker and first-year player Kapri Bibbs, had zero NFL game-day experience at running back.
And two, Hillman more than any other available running back knows the Broncos’ offense. It’s difficult for offensive players to join a team this late in the season and pick up their new team’s playbook.
Hillman does have familiarity with the Chargers’ offense as their head coach, Mike McCoy, was the Broncos’ offensive coordinator during Hillman’s rookie season of 2012. San Diego is also thin at running back and figure to eventually use Hillman as the backup to Melvin Gordon.