Cleveland Browns Have Advantage in Free Agent Talks

Brian DiTullioSenior Writer IJune 2, 2010

CLEVELAND - OCTOBER 04:  Jerome Harrison #35 of the Cleveland Browns runs the ball against the Cincinnati Bengals during their game at Cleveland Browns Stadium on October 4, 2009 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Bengals defeated the Browns 23-20 in overtime.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns front office is making one last attempt at getting their five restricted free agents signed and into the offseason program.

The Browns could have rescinded their offers, but that would've made the players unrestricted free agents.

With this move, the Browns are approaching the players in good faith while still keeping all the leverage in contract negotiations.

The five players (running back Jerome Harrison, linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, linebacker Matt Roth, safety Abe Elam, and fullback Lawrence Vickers) all were offered second-round tenders worth more than $1 million a piece for the 2010 season.

It is important to point out that four of these players Roth, Elam, Harrison and Vickers are represented by agent Drew Rosenhaus.

Rosenhaus will play hardball, but he doesn't have much to work with here. As RFAs, they can't go anywhere else, and if they decline to sign their tenders by June 15, their rights remain with the Browns, who then can drastically reduce their offer for all the players except Elam.

However, Elam isn't exactly an elite safety, but you can read more about his lack of production here .

General Manager Tom Heckert has said in one print report that he could reduce the tenders if they don't sign, but don't get too attached to anything he says at this point because it's all a part of the game.

Harrison has started showing up for OTAs, meaning he's well aware of the consequences of his continued in absence in light of the acquisition of Montario Hardesty.

Harrison is running out of time to get his big deal, but he can get what he wants if he can prove the end of last season wasn't a fluke. You can read about that here .

Dropping the offers to players like Jackson and Roth would create ill will, but Heckert likely is trying to say their offers are more than fair and that missing out on the offseason program isn't the best way to get a raise.

Last year, Joshua Cribbs threatened a holdout before showing up and having a Pro Bowl year. He was rewarded with a new contract in March.

Cleveland finished 5-11 last year, and the defense wasn't exactly one of the league's elite units, so Jackson, Elam and Roth have to realize that if no othe team was willing to trade a second-round pick for their services prior to the draft, they might want to take advantage of the money they're being offered right now.

Why Vickers is not signing his tender is a complete mystery because he's a role player, not a featured back, meaning the second-round tender level is quite generous.

This all leads to the conclusion that Rosenhaus is trying to get his clients more money, which admittedly is his job, but the Browns have the upper hand in all areas of negotiations.

The Browns own their rights by offering the tenders, the Browns now have a lot of depth at running back, safety, and the defensive line, and none of the defensive talent had great years when taken as a whole.

It's a game of free agency chicken now, and the Browns won't be the first to blink.


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