It's beginning to look like the Cleveland Browns worst fears regarding the signing of their top draft pick are coming true.
No. 6 overall pick Kellen Winslow turned down the Browns six-year, $40-million offer that included $13-million in guaranteed money - essentially the same deal No. 5 overall pick Sean Taylor, Winslow's former teammate at the University of Miami, signed with Washington earlier this week.
It all sets the stage for what could be a long, ugly, almost silly holdout.
The Browns made their 11th-hour offer to Winslow Friday morning in an attempt to have the talented tight end on the field for Friday afternoon's first practice of training camp.
A statement issued by Browns president John Collins just before the players took the field for practice made the team's offer look more than fair. But then, Winslow's agent, Kevin Poston, is not known for accepting what would normally be fair market value. He and his brother Carl typically ask for the moon.
"Given the close personal and competitive relationship between Kellen and
Sean Taylor, as well as their equal talent level on different sides of the
football, we did not want to penalize Kellen for being picked one slot before
his former teammate," Collins said in the statement. "Faced with the
opportunity to get Kellin in camp on time, we made our best offer."
The Browns claimed to also "take a long look" at the deal perennial Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez signed with the Kansas City Chiefs just before the 2002 season, then offered Winslow the opportunity to "far exceed" Gonzalez's compensation.
In turning down the Browns offer, Winslow reneged on his post-draft statement that he only wanted to be paid what the sixth pick in the draft should be paid. Not that anyone in their right mind ever believed him at the time.
"The way I see it, you need to give me No. 6 pick money," said Winslow.
"Look at last year's No. 6 pick, and I'm in camp."
The Browns did more than offer No. 6 money from last year, which would have been the $19.1-million deal with a $11.4-million signing bonus defensive tackle Jonathan Sullivan signed with New Orleans. They offered No. 5 money from this year.
The Poston's have already been lobbying for Winslow making the type of money a No. 1 overall pick should expect, claiming "he could be the LeBron James of the Browns."
"He's that talented," Poston said in April. "When you negotiate with top-value players, to come up with that value is not easy. My job is to make sure he gets a fair deal."
The Poston's are pretty busy right now, trying to negotiate "fair" deals for several big-name clients.
In addition to Winslow, they represent fellow first-round picks Reggie Williams (ninth overall by Jacksonville) and Chris Gamble (28th overall by Carolina). They also represent three of the NFL's five unsigned franchise players in Oakland cornerback Charles Woodson, St. Louis tackle Orlando Pace and San Francisco linebacker Julian Peterson.