Commentary: Now Comes the Hard Part

The subject of this commentary is not the player (Charles Rogers) on the right. It's the man on the left: hard-line agent Kevin Poston, who represents top draft pick Kellen Winslow, Jr. Veteran Browns analyst Frank Derry turns his gaze to the upcoming negotiations and offers what he expects to see, and his thoughts on how the situation should be handled...

It has often been said that talk is cheap. The Browns will soon find out the old cliché isn't always accurate.

Nothing, and I emphasize the word NOTHING, will be cheap about the upcoming contract talks between the Browns and Kevin Poston, agent for first-round draft choice Kellen Winslow Jr.

Poston's well-documented history of tough negotiations between his players and NFL teams is legendary. He is football's version of baseball hard-liner Scott Boras, the agent who makes virtually all Major League Baseball owners cringe when  they find out he is representing one of their star players.

Some players, knowing Boras's reputation, would never even consider allowing him to handle their negotiations. Others would have it no other way. They want every penny they can squeeze out of ownership even if it means another player or two on the same team must accept less to compensate.

Obviously, here in America, that is their right. But is it right?

Truthfully, I don't think so. There is a thin line between being fair and frugal.

Over the years, dating back even to the Art Modell era of ownership, the Browns have had, for the most part, a reputation of being overly-fair when it came to compensating their players.

Of course, there have been exceptions. The handling of Felix Wright and his public run-in with David Modell, certainly left a sour taste in the mouth of a lot of people. And there's no doubt the current Dennis Northcutt fiasco could have, and should have, been handled in a more professional manner by both sides.

But all in all, the Browns have a solid reputation when it comes to dealing with players and their agents.  When there was no salary cap, Art Modell often overpaid his players, which is one reason he nearly ran himself into bankruptcy.

The signing of free agent wide receiver Andre Rison was probably the most noteworthy, but there were a lot of other players who received much more than they would have from other teams.

The current regime obviously overpaid some of its first-round draft picks, which is one big reason why, just a few years after they returned from oblivion, they found themselves in an absolutely horrible salary cap situation. The result was their having to cut numerous veteran players following the 2002 season, which ended up turning 2003 into a rebuilding season.

No doubt, the Browns will have that in mind when they begin negotiations with Winslow in the next month or two. They know that overpaying even one player could very well have a trickle-down affect on the rest of the roster.

On the other hand, they also know that getting Winslow into camp on time, or at least just a few days late, will be very important in kicking the season off on the right foot.

Winslow, who predicts he can be as good or better than his Hall of Fame father, Kellen Winslow Sr., will likely play a key role in both the running game and passing game. If he is everything he claims to be, and everything the Browns obviously feel he is, then he should be both a standout blocker and pass receiver.

As such, does that mean he should get paid as though he were two players? Gary Collins, the great wide receiver/punter for the Browns in the 1960s, always claimed he should be paid accordingly because he really filled two roster spots on the team. The fact the Browns wouldn't pay him the punter's salary in addition to his own created some hard feelings that lasted long after Collins retired.

In Winslow's case, his ability as both a receiver and a blocker should actually allow the Browns to carry one less tight end of the roster. No longer will a run-block specialist be needed.

If I were Kevin Poston, I definitely would point out this fact. I'd also make certain head coach Butch Davis doesn't forget the incredibly glowing comments he made about Winslow in the minutes and hours following the draft.

There is no doubt Winslow will be in line for at least a $12 or $13 million signing bonus, based simply upon the bonuses handed out the past two years to the player chosen No. 6 in the first round.

Last year, Georgia defensive tackle Johnathan Sullivan received an $11.4 millions signing bonus from the New Orleans Saints, plus a seven-year, $19.1 million contract. The previous year, defensive tackle Ryan Sims received a $9.87 million signing bonus and a six-year deal for $25 million from the Chiefs.

The average salary goes up about 10 percent every year, so the minimum bonus figures to be about $12.8 million and Winslow's seven-year contract will likely be for more than $21 million.

The Browns will undoubtedly offer those type of numbers. If you listen to Winslow, he would seem willing to accept that money. "The way I see it, give me the sixth-pick money. Look at last year's pick and I'm in camp. That's the way I see it."

Unfortunately, that's not the way his agent is likely to see things.

Poston will look at everything Winslow has to offer; at the high price the Browns were willing to pay to move up one spot in the draft; at the money saved by the team by not having to pay an early second-round selection; at the fact some teams had Winslow ranked as the No. 1 player in this year's draft; and at the fact the Browns are nearly out of their salary-cap emergency.

He'll likely look at everything except what is best for the player and what is best for the team. Because of that, it is very unlikely Kellen Winslow Jr. will be in Berea for the start of training camp in July. Hopefully, if he does hold out, it won't run too far into August.

I just hope that when the fingers of blame for a possible holdout are pointed, not all will be directed at Poston. The fact is, Winslow knew what he was getting when he hired Poston, and the Browns knew what they were getting into when they drafted the son of possibly the greatest tight end in the history of the game.

A week or so without Winslow won't, in the long run, make that much of a difference if indeed he participates in the other off-season activities planned for the rookies. But if he refuses to take part in the mini-camps, that could prove a real problem, one the Browns could end up paying a heavy price for both on and off the field.

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