Talk about a quick honeymoon phase. Within 72 hours of landing in Cleveland, Browns president Mike Holmgren has experienced his first rough patch with a player on his team as well as fans of his franchise.
During his Tuesday afternoon press conference, Holmgren stated that he “believes players should be rewarded for what they do.” This, of course, was in reference to one Josh Cribbs and his ongoing contract desires. Holmgren also stated that the issues that arise come between the team and the player’s representation.
“I want Josh here,” said Holmgren. “Now, he has three years left on his existing contract so it’s a little unprecedented to start doing things this early in a contract like that. Having said that,” he continued, “a player should get what he deserves and (Cribbs) has been a fine player. It’s just that business part of it that we’re going through now. We’re trying. I hope how we do that is good enough.”
And as of approximately 6PM last night, “good enough” would not be the term used by Josh Cribbs and his agent J.R. Rickert.
Cribbs took to Twitter to discuss what transpired between the two sides.
“Thanks everyone. I love playing for the Browns and put my all in to it, but it doesn’t look good [for] me at this point on returning… I don’t believe I made the to do list for the team in 2010…”
Rickert was not far behind.
“I do not understand how Dawn Aponte and Mike Holmgren can defend their position, but they are alienating one of their best players. 1.4 per year is NOT even in the top 10 in the league for kick returners…..Are you kidding me or what?? This is one the best special teams players in the history of the game and a player who has the ability to be a game changer at any moment”
As expected, Browns fans were incensed by the words typed by the fan favorite. Replies were predominantly in the form of disgust with the organization, the one that has strung the return man extraordinaire on for the last few years with promises of getting compensated for all of his work.
In a recent radio interview, Cribbs expressed that he felt he was doing things correctly – not holding out, taking on expanded roles, giving 100 percent despite the team record or current game score.
Cribbs and Rickert are reportedly seeking a contract that ranges from $2.8-3.2 million per season. As Rickert stated, the Browns offered $1.4 million with incentives that could maximize the annual pay at $2 million. The Browns offer is being described as a “take it or leave it.” The OBR has a quote from Browns representative Dawn Aponte:
“It’ll be the same offer tomorrow, the same offer in March, and the same offer in September.”
Or as Jerod Morris put best:
“The Cleveland Browns, in their infinite wisdom (you know, the same wisdom that has guided them to so many winning seasons since rejoining the league in 1999…), have decided that it is fair and reasonable to offer Josh Cribbs significantly less money than Andre Davis and Roscoe Parrish make per year.”
Yes, that Andre Davis.
Other WRs who make more than $1.4 million and aren’t “every down” players: Marty Booker, Sam Hurd, Rashied Davis, Greg Camarillo, Brian Finneran, Jordy Nelson, Arnaz Battle, Brandon Jones, Reggie Brown, Javon Walker, and fellow return man Antwan Randle El ($4 million in 2009). And do not forget Cribbs’ importance on return coverage as well.
Given that, Team Cribbs has reportedly said that he feels “deeply disrespected” and feels that he has been lied to for over two seasons, regardless of what regime is in place. Rickert went on record to say that if the Browns do not improve their offer, his client will never step foot back in the Browns facility and that Cribbs/Rickert will push for a trade come March. Of course, Rickert would need permission to shop his client to other teams within the NFL.
Cribbs’ quotes from later in the night speak a little louder, as the “in the moment” emotion was hours past. Attending the Cavaliers game, Cribbs received a standing ovation from fans during a timeout.
“Thanks for cheering me up I really needed it everyone. It feels like I’ve been betrayed by my best friend.”
Cribbs is due to make just over $700,000 next season, making the Browns offer one of an additional $500,000 – or half of what Team Cribbs desires.
Given what Cribbs has meant to this Browns franchise since joining as an undrafted rookie, it is understandably a tough place for Holmgren and the Browns. Randy Lerner is one of the individuals who “promised” Cribbs a new contract; Holmgren was brought in to show the fans that Lerner is in fact serious about getting this team on the right track. A player that Cribbs is consistently compared to at this stage is Chicago’s Devin Hester – a player who is playing on a contract that pays him upwards of $5.5 million per year. Cribbs is looking for approximately half of that deal, which was signed a handful of years ago.
Of course, taking matters public via Twitter and an interview with Fox 8 may not be thought highly of by the Browns front office. Holmgren has dealt with contract issues of fan favorites in his past, most notably Walter Jones. Jones was not given a contract extension in 2002 and skipped the first two games prior to signing a one-year deal.
How he deals with his first contract dispute in Cleveland remains to be seen.
Related: Examining Cribbs’ contract situation [No Logo Needed]
(image via Flickr)