Cribbs' Endearing to new Browns?

"Let me be clear," J.R. Rickert posted on Twitter. "[Cribbs] is a Cleveland Brown [until] March 12. No other discussions are [in] process."

Josh Cribbs sure seems to have stepped into it.

He probably couldn't have stepped into it worse had he put it in a bag, lit it on fire and stepped on the bag to put out the fire.

This is shocking, I'm sure, that Cribbs said something and caused a ruckus, but that's what happened.

Appearing on ESPN-850 on Thursday, Cribbs basically said his agents have been talking to other teams about his upcoming free agency. Which they're not supposed to do.

"My agent has been meeting with several different teams," Cribbs said in an on-air interview. "There is a lot of interest. There are already numbers brought to the table. Things are happening. Wheels are turning behind closed doors."

Wheels turning?

Not a lot of wiggle room on that one.

This of course would be … you know … against the rules.

Teams are not supposed to negotiate or even talk to agents of players with other teams until three days prior to free agency. Doing so is tampering.

This led to a scramble by Cribbs' agents to say this was not happening.

"Let me be clear," J.R. Rickert posted on Twitter. "[Cribbs] is a Cleveland Brown [until] March 12. No other discussions are [in] process."

Which of course makes it so.

Not to say that NFL teams don't violate the no-contact/tampering rule; it happens all the time. It's one of the reasons the league put in a three-day window prior to the start of free agency. In those three days, agents can talk to teams about a contract, but can't sign them. The new rule makes legal what had been happening for years.

That wasn't all Cribbs had to say, though.

Asked if he would accept a role as a special-teamer, Cribbs said:

"I've been on this team for many years and watched our offense struggle every single year but once. And every time I step on the field on the offense, the majority of the time there was an exciting play. First down. Momentum. For me not to be a part of the offense, I'm not OK with that.

"To say, ‘Hey, you're just a special teams guy.' I'm not OK with that. Especially after catching 42 balls as a No.3, No. 4 receiver (in 2011). You can't say I can't catch the ball. You can't say if you put me on the field I'm not going to produce. Because that's what this game is about.

"Ultimately it's producing, putting up points and winning. But now it's becoming more and more about whoever you draft, and opportunity for the draft pick. If these scouts didn't bring in this guy, tough for him. He has to get in where he can get in. We have to play these guys because we drafted these guys.

"It shouldn't be that. If you want to win, you play the guys who are the best. Play the best guys who are going to win. Too many organizations come to the Browns trying to build instead of trying to win this year. Put all your eggs into this year.

"Because as you see, it's not definite that you'll be here the next year. They said (Pat) Shurmur was gonna be here for years to come, and that's what (Mike) Holmgren was preaching, consistency in the organization. But as you see, if you don't win there will be high turnover. Put all your eggs in one year. Win that year so you can have many more to come."

At this point it seems like Cribbs could not do a better job of opening the door to his exit.

Joe Banner said last week that decisions have been made on the future of the Browns free agents – Cribbs and kicker Phil Dawson being the most prominent – but he wouldn't say the decisions.

He did, though, stress that the Browns will emphasize youth, and bring in younger players.

That alone does not sound good for Cribbs, who isn't exactly old at 29 but has a lot of miles on a 29-year-old body. Cribbs still remains one of the better special teams players in the league. Last season he had his best punt return average since 2007 and his best kickoff return average since 2009. He's fearless, but he's also not what he was in '07 when he scored three return touchdowns or in '09 when he scored four. Since 2009, he has one return touchdown in three seasons.

Yes, there are new kickoff rules, but it's still not a good trend for a guy trying to stay with a team that is going younger.

Add on Cribbs' recent chattiness and it just doesn't seem like the Browns will want to keep him.

Cribbs is one of the most cooperative media guys on the Browns. He's always willing to talk, it's appreciated and a media guy should never turn away from that.

But … sometimes for the guy doing the talking, discretion is the better part of valor. And talking about your deal and a role you will not accept as free agency approaches doesn't seem like the best way to cuddle up with this new regime. Banner does not seem like a guy who tolerates this kind of thing — especially when Cribbs basically admits that he and his agents are guilty of tampering.

Though of course his agents said that's not so.

At this point, it's been a great ride with Cribbs, but his future seems like it will be elsewhere.

Pat McManamon appears courtesy of FoxSportsOhio

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