Cleveland Browns fans, prone to knee-jerk meltdowns, once again lined up to jump off a cliff after Joshua Cribbs’ agents decided to become drama queens.
Agent Peter Schaffer said his client will clean out his locker today and not participate in any OTAs during the offseason. Agent J.R. Rickert, Cribbs’ other agent, said they are formally going to request a trade.
The quotes associated with the story talk about absolutes, “disrespect,” and “having no choice.”
Schaffer said the Browns offered Cribbs $1.4 million a year, well below the market average. This figure also is reported to be the “final” offer.
For comparisons sake, Devin Hester, the player most comparable to Cribbs, makes $5.45 million a year.
There are several reasons why this move by the brain trust behind Cribbs is absolutely, positively, 100 percent meaningless. Everyone in Browns Nation needs to take a step back, calm down, and just think about things for a minute.
Cribbs' Agents are Frustrated
Cribbs has taken the unusual step of being represented by two agents. Agents want to get paid. The only way his agents get paid is if Cribbs gets a new contract. The more money Cribbs gets, the more money his agents will get. They are well motivated.
Cribbs and his entourage are now dealing with their third regime in one year and are understandably frustrated by the lack of movement. Former Browns GM Phil Savage promised a new contract a few weeks before he was fired in 2008.
Eric Mangini was hired to run the club and he immediately took Cribbs' contract renegotiation request and filed it in the garbage. With four years remaining on the contract prior to the 2009 season, that was not an unreasonable move.
(Although, for the die-hard Mangini haters out there, here’s another reason for you to justify your hatred.)
However, Cribbs' contention that he outplayed that contract got hammered home this season when he broke the NFL record for touchdown returns. Mangini has since promised to get a deal done.
The problem now is that Mike Holmgren, new President of Football Operations, is a little busy trying to figure out the coaching staff and front office. Cribbs' contract is not a high priority the first week of January.
The Salary Cap Issue is a Huge Problem
The 2010 season is looking like it will be an uncapped year, which would bode well for Cribbs because there would be no penalties for the rest of the team for throwing a huge contract Cribbs' way.
The problem is in 2011 and after, if a new deal gets done with the union and a new salary cap is installed. Don’t forget the Browns chief contract negotiator Dawn Aponte doesn’t just have to think about next year, she has to think three to four years down the road.
Cribbs' agents know this, but are counting on a huge payday to take advantage of an uncapped year. It’s not an unreasonable move, but it is shortsighted.
Cribbs' Agents are Counting on Browns Fans to Sway the Negotiations
Owner Randy Lerner has shown in the past that he’s vulnerable to a sometimes demonstrative and angry fan base, making decisions hastily because a very vocal portion of fans get his attention.
The whole reason for going public with the negotiations is to put pressure on the Browns front office to cave to every demand.
Nice try, but that’s not going to happen. The meltdown factor in the last 24 hours will fade once the news cycle moves on.
As for Schaffer’s comments that Cribbs will be cleaning out his locker...yeah, so is every other NFL player on every other team in every other city that didn’t make the playoffs.
(Am I the only one who channels the ghost of Jim Mora every time someone mentions the playoffs? PLAYOFFS?!?!?! PLAYOFFS!!! PLAYOFFS!?!?!??)
The thing to remember in January is that the Browns have a long way to go before they have to worry about any kind of holdout. While the agents are trying to force the issue months ahead of when most free agent contracts are done, the bottom line is that Cribbs is posing and posturing for the media and the fans.
The Browns have Cribbs under contract for three more years, and yes, they must redo that contract because he clearly has outplayed it. But the contract will get done on the Browns' timetable, not the agents.
Was the $1.4 million offer the agents reported a low-ball offer?
Should the agents have expected anything else?
Should anyone believe the agents assertion that the Browns said this would be the “final” offer?
Once again, absolutely not.
The negotiations for Cribbs' contract probably will play out over the next few months while Holmgren gets the new front office in place and the rest of the league figures out how they’re going to structure new contracts going into an uncapped season.
Until then, anything coming from Cribbs' camp is suspect.
Eric Mangini Note
The crack reporters that cover the Browns reported Mangini “left the facility at 5:30 p.m.” yesterday without word about his future.
That’s great reporting on front office personnel leaving the office at the conclusion of normal business hours during the offseason. Why would these guys stay until midnight? They have no game this weekend.
Unless Mangini was escorted out by security, boxes in hand, there’s nothing to this story other than Mangini went home to his wife and family for the evening and will pick things up the next day with the Browns.
And that’s all any of us can do until all the drama is resolved, take it one day at a time.