Comparative Castles and Market Mispricing

Cribbs House

In a southwestern suburb of Cleveland, Ohio exists a sprawling brick colonial. A little over 5,000 square feet, the estate greets you with a two-story grand foyer where chocolate dark wood meets crisp white pillars, both of which lead to a giant staircase. Immediately to your right is a front room typical of most large, newly constructed homes—relatively unused, pristine with pops of cardinal red paint on the walls and monochrome furnishings that ooze minimalism. The rest of the home provides a palatial experience with each additional step thanks to a 400-square foot, two-story great room complete with a marble-enclosed fireplace; a library-ready office with rich wood built-in shelving and just enough character thanks to the tray ceilings; and a saltwater aquarium that would made Deuce Bigalow do a double-take. The landscaping could use some work, but hey—it’s April.

Joshua Cribbs owns multiple NFL records. The long-time Browns return man owns a house—more specifically, this house. Yet, he has no home.

Cribbs’ career comes storybook ready. A hard-nosed kid from the Washington DC area who improved his toughness by playing tackle footballwith his older brother—on concrete— took a scholarship from a mid-major Division I university in rural Ohio. He would become a footnote in 2002’s National Championship season as the Buckeyes would dismantle his Golden Flashes in early September; it was Cribbs who the vaunted Scarlet and Grey defense would focus on given his talent level and ability to run. Though the David Flashes lost to the Goliath Buckeyes, Cribbs—fresh off of his freshman campaign where he became the first Division I-A freshman quarterback to pass and run for more than 1,000 yards in a season—ran for 94 yards in addition to his 160 yards passing. It was far from a marquee outing, representing more of a stepping stone for Jim Tressel and company, but it was one that allowed Cribbs’ name to ascend up through the fireside discussions of local football fans.

Eleven years later, after amassing three Pro Bowls and two All-Pro nods through along his eight-year, loss-filled journey with the Cleveland Browns, the former undrafted free agent is once again in similar peril. The only difference is that Cribbs will soon turn 30 years of age and has a skill set that has declined in terms of demand. Cribbs is electric in every way—fans love him, teammates love him; he is a threat to make a play every time he touches the football and a glorious battering ram any time he is deployed on kick coverage. But as the pages on the calendar turn, more and more players with Cribbs’ focused and specialized tools enter into the mix. It seems like just yesterday that Cribbs started his parade of autograph sessions, adding “NFL Record 8 KO Returns” to the scribbles that represented his name. That record has since been tied by the diminutive Leon Washington, but Cribbs’ name still stands in the record books. For now, anyway.

Josh CribbsWashington, who was also a free agent heading into this spring, has since signed on with the New England Patriots. Unlike Cribbs, Washington has been forced to bounce around the league, making stops in New York and Seattle prior to falling into the hands of Bill Belichick. Washington signed a one-year deal with the Pats, one that included a mere $360,000 as a signing bonus and $300,000 available only through incentives. Cribbs, who said that he would have been willing to take a “hometown discount” if the new Browns regime was interested in his services, just reached the end of a deal that was famously re-worked after the affable return man staged a bit of an impasse with former team president Mike Holmgren. After being offered a $1.4 million deal, Cribbs cleaned out his locker and took to every outlet that would listen, leveraging his popularity with the fans against a team in dire need of playmakers. “It’s like I’ve been betrayed and stabbed in the back,” he stated.

On March 5, 2010, Cribbs re-signed with the Browns to the tune of three years and $20 million.

If this was the base from where the hometown discount would be applied, it’s easy to see why Cribbs is still a free agent. Following a heartfelt goodbye through his ever-growing use of social media, Cribbs began looking for a suitor. The Patriots were one of the teams which expressed initial interest in obtaining Cribbs’ acumen. As were the Giants and 49ers and Cowboys and Cardinals. The Pats were the front-runners, but—laced with a bit of irony—opted to sign Washington. The Arizona Cardinals soon waltzed into the mix. It appeared that a deal with the Cards was all but inked until word of a failed physical leaked out of the desert. Arizona has since drafted the much-maligned (but very electric) Tyrann Mathieu. Cardinals general manager Steve Kelm has all but made it official that the team is no longer interested in Cribbs.

Local interest in Cribbs is understandable. Last summer, it was Cribbs who commissioned a charter to Omaha, Nebraska so that fans could cheer on the Golden Flashes in the College World Series. Earlier this month, Cribbs escorted a local teen to her senior prom despite his Cleveland-based contractual obligations being over. Several other instances of Cribbs attending functions, giving back and merely being out amongst the people undoubtedly occurred in between. It is for these reasons, and many more rooted in on-field theatrics, that many hope that Cribbs will one day make his way back to Cleveland and retire with the orange helmet being the last one to protect his dread lock-covered head.

Joshua Cribbs’ house is presently on the market. Of the four comparative castles for sale on his street, his is presently priced the highest, real estate symbolism at its finest. Still, Cribbs and his wife are asking for roughly $75,000 less than they had purchased it for back in 2004 when Josh signed on with the Browns—a hometown discount, but one based more in regional economics than regional altruism. Soon, someone else will be enjoying the luxuries of the expansive walk-out basement and smoked glass within the master bathroom. Soon, a new set of children will be frolicking about the mutli-tiered wooden swingset that is confined within the tree-lined back yard. And soon, Cribbs will find a new domicile, in a domain yet to be determined. The size and building supplies may vary, as will the climate and clientele. But before the 29-year-old and his family descend upon a new house, he has to find a new home.

Market-based pricing can be a sobering experience. The more you look at the cabinets in Cribbs’ home, the more they resemble the dated nature of a 30-year-old special teams star. No one likes to be told that they’re not worth as much as once assumed. Unfortunately for Cribbs, whether due to injuries or NFL rule changes, it appears that his hometown discount will have to become one of league-wide proportions.

Photo: John Kuntz/Plain Dealer

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I just can’t help not feeling bad for Cribbs that supposed hometown discount of 2004 was more then returned in 2010 to the tune of $20 million. I didn’t care much for the whole public relations game that was played and thought the “pay the man” was crazy.

  • saggy

    I like Josh Cribbs. I think his house is ugly and overpriced.

  • Natedawg86

    I would have cribbs for the same offer that washington is making. With the caviot, he knows his part on the team is as a special teamer, not on offense. And he keeps his mouth shut.

  • That doesn’t look like a 5000 sq foot house…

  • Garry_Owen

    We do need a Free Safety . . .

  • mgbode

    wonder if he can kick?

  • The reason that Josh Cribbs was so outspoken about getting a payday was because of the very thing happening to him now. NFL life can disappear in a heartbeat and you have to capitalize while your stock has high value. I wish he could stay for a decent wage here, and at least provide a measuring stick of work ethic and behavior to the young browns.

  • We should bring back Josh at a discounted rate to backup Jason Campbell/Thad Lewis

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    My uncle had almost the same house just half the size and half the price!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Benjamin is his name and special teams is his game. He’s the younger, cheaper Cribbs. If Dawson couldn’t stay then forget Josh.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    2,500 actual living space and 2,500 for personal altruism!

  • humboldt

    Well said, but prepare for the barrage of ignorance about why Cribbs is a selfish, narcissistic, talent-depleted primadonna.

  • Harv 21

    A special teamer earned $20m plus before age 30? For goodness sakes, warrior, take what’s left of your battered body and brain, walk away and go raise your kids. Just please don’t tell us all the money’s spent.

    And I don’t think he’s unemployed because of injuries, or that rule changes are the primary reason. It’s mostly because, as tough and strong as he remains, Cribbs lost his top gear, the one that let him burst past and away from defenders, a season or two ago. And also because the league minimum salary for a second year player with an electric burst and adept at returning kicks is $360,000. Even if Cribbs signs for the minimum, as an 8 year vet he’s at $720,000 minimum.

  • Harv 21

    Cribbs almost always almost keeps his mouth shut. I’m sure other teams have considered his diminishing skills, his price tag and his annual history going to the press to complain about his role when considering whether that’s what they need in a special teamer.

  • BenRM

    Oh I get it! Housing market. NFL market. It’s like a metaphor!

    Josh may not always have a place on the Browns, but he still has a place in my heart <3

  • MrCleaveland

    He should sell the house to Barkevious or McFadden. It’s convenient all around

  • Garry_Owen

    Can’t both be true?

  • Natedawg86

    Dawson wanted to play for a winner. It is not like the Browns kicked him to the curb. Cribbs wants more money. Benji excited me on PR, but I don’t know if he is durable enough to return kicks. You have more contact on KR which is where Cribbs excelled.

  • TOJ

    Bet he’s counting the basement in the square footage. This above all else should tarnish his legacy the most.

  • love what cribbs did for us, but he sure looked slow last year. he also made some questionable return choices from 8 yds deep in end zone; choices that looked suspiciously like he wanted to put up some stats versus do what was best for the team.

    it’s probable cribbs will be a cautionary tale with not money and advance CTE symptoms by 40. sad but that’s how it looks from here.

    the guy was a born strong safety. whatever the reason for his not trying to play there (i suspect he thought he could get more coin on offense), it’s a shame he didn’t.

  • Harv 21

    When I saw those questionable decisions I also wondered about that, Jim. You may be right about his reasons. I noticed he tended to do that after an opponent’s big play rather than when the game was close. I chose to interpret it as a competitor foolishly (selfishly?) trying to take things into his own hands. Saw the same thing in his increasing fumbles and near-fumbles – they often happened when the Browns needed a play or after he had messed up his previous return, and he started exposing the ball while juking kind of desperately.

    A far cry from his prime when he would pick a tiny seam and explode straight through it going north-south, or from my fav Cribbs return, against Pitts, where he calmly turned his back on the gunner and jogged back to a ball on the 4 yard line, then turned and exploded up the sideline and across the field. He no longer has the top gear to do either.

  • BuckeyeDawg

    There were 3-4 returns last year where I remember thinking that the Josh Cribbs of 5 years ago would have been gone. I remember seeing him break through the front line and hit the open field, only to be caught from behind or on a pursuit angle. You are correct. His “top gear” is gone. I think he can still be an outstanding gunner on kick coverage, but nobody’s going to pay big money for that.

    Hopefully Josh has spent/saved his money wisely. If so, he should be set for life. Not to mention, I’m sure someone in the local media can find him some work if he wants to stay in town.