UPDATE 10:45AM: Team President Carmen Policy has issued the following statement:
"NFL Management Council has verified that Dennis Northcutt is under contract to the Cleveland Browns through the 2006 season. His contract is a seven year contract that can void to four years if two conditions are met. First, Dennis must perform at a level on the field that meets or exceeds certain stipulations. His performance has met the necessary stipulations. Secondly, the decision to void the final three years of his contract is one that can only be exercised by Dennis and/or his representatives, and his contract clearly requires that the Browns must be informed via certified mail no later than February 19, 2004 if Dennis wished to void his final three years. We never received such notification."
UPDATE 7:45AM: Pat McManamon provides additional details in an article in the Akron Beacon-Journal.
ORIGINAL REPORT 12:30 AM Thursday: According to reports this evening on Cleveland radio, Browns WR Dennis Northcutt will remain bound to the team through the 2006 season.
WTAM's Mike Trivassano told listeners tonight that Northcutt's agent failed to file the appropriate paperwork with the NFL to enable the receiver to void the final three years of his deal with the Browns.
Northcutt signed a seven-year contract with the Browns in 2000, when he was the initial pick in the second round of the draft. His contract called for a $1.53 million signing bonus and salaries which gradually increased each year. The final three years of the contract, however, were voidable if Northcutt attained certain performance targets.
Since the paperwork was not filed with the NFL, it is believed that Northcutt could be held to the original terms of his deal. After being paid $532,000 in 2003, the contract calls for the receiver to be paid $618,860 this year, $696,220 in 2005 and $773,570 in 2006. If he continues to play for the team under the terms of his rookie contract, Northcutt will have an impact on the team's salary cap of less than $1 million.
Northcutt was expected to be in high demand as a free agent and could potentially lose millions of dollars if he is unable to void the final three years. The Kansas City Chiefs, among other teams, were expected to vie for Northcutt's services.
The fleet wide receiver still has a couple of potential options, even if he remains bound to the contract. For instance, Northcutt could possibly hold out of training camp and demand a better deal. If this evening's reports are confirmed, however, the news could be very good for a Browns team looking to improve on offense, and very bad for a wide receiver who had been looking forward to seeing a huge payday in 2004.