Editorial: It's a Fumble!

Through the first days of Training Camp, the Browns media and PR machine has effectively portrayed their version of events regarding the negotiations with Kellen Winslow. Frank Derry, though, has a different view of things, and offers it in this hard-hitting editorial.


That one word will long be associated with the Cleveland Browns if for no other reason than that infamous play by Earnest Byner near the goal line against the Broncos in the playoffs a few years ago.

Being a Browns fan, I'm sure you remember, right? No further details needed, right?

Well, FUMBLE, PART II might very well have taken place just as the Browns were about to open their 2004 Training Camp.

Less than 48 hours after head coach Butch Davis, at his annual Training Camp preview press conference, told several dozen reporters that contract negotiations between the Browns and No. 1 draft pick Kellen Winslow Jr., would not be conducted through the media, the Browns released the following statement to the media:

The Cleveland Browns made a contract proposal to Kellen Winslow's agents that will match the offer signed by Sean Taylor, the player drafted ahead of him, and will also allow Kellen the opportunity to equal Taylor's total package.

"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 below his former teammate. Faced with the opportunity to get Kellen in camp on time, we made our best offer," said President and CEO John Collins.

In coming up with the offer, the Browns also took a long look at the deal the Kansas City Chief's Tony Gonzalez, a perennial Pro Bowl player, signed just before the start of the 2002 season. The Browns offer provides Kellen Winslow the opportunity to far exceed Gonzalez's compensation.

End of press release

End of keeping negotiations out of the newspapers.

I'm sure glad they kept all of the details private. I'm sure glad they didn't try to alienate their client by giving out any information that might make the player look greedy in the eyes of the fans if indeed he and his agents didn't accept the offer.

Oh, you mean you didn't scratch your head and say, "What the hell! This kid can't make it on $40 million, including a $13 million (and change) signing bonus!"

Then you are likely the exception to the rule.

No, Collins didn't come out and specifically cite the numbers in his statement. He didn't need to. They were already made available with a little research into the contracts of Taylor and Gonzalez.

Winslow knew that when word got around town that he had rejected the Browns' offer, that a lot of negative vibes would be felt around town. So he hopped the next plane to Houston in order to avoid the controversy.

Good move, Kellen!

Bad move, John Collins!

In less than six months on the job, and without even touching a football, you made a play that I'll always refer to as "The Fumble, Part II."

Instead of doing as Davis had requested and kept the negotiations out of the newspapers, your statement managed to create banner newspaper headlines and non-stop talk on the radio.

Obviously, Winslow and his agents were going to publicly react to the statement, which they did. In their opinion, which also should have and probably would have been kept behind closed doors if you know who didn't do you know what, the deal Taylor signed with the Redskins was terrible.

Too much of the money in the contract is incentive-laced. More than half, as a matter of fact.

Not that Winslow and his agents, the Poston brothers, don't expect Kellen to become all-World within the first few hours of his reporting to camp, they also know there are extenuating circumstances that are out of their control.

For example, what happens if he gets hurt and misses considerable time? And what happens if his teammates don't do their jobs and opposing defenses are able to shut him down because they have no one else to worry about.?

What happens if the Browns discover they have the second coming of Byner and Kevin Mack in William Green and Lee Suggs and decide to run the football a majority of the time, ala the 1985 team when both Mack and Byner eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark?

What happens then, bucko?  The Browns probably will win a lot of games and Winslow will likely be called upon to do a lot of blocking. Even if he's the best blocking tight end in the world, that's simply a stat which doesn't show up in the final game stats. Or prominently in his list of incentives.

Winslow knows it. His agents knows it. His father, Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow Sr., knows it. Everyone in football knows it.

Just as everyone in football knows that there will  eventually be a meeting of the minds; that somehow, some way the Browns and the Poston brothers will come to some sort of agreement. They know that both sides need each other. They know that in the history of the game, only a handful of players have ever refused to sign, thus putting their careers in jeopardy.

But both sides also know that the longer this matter drags out … the longer it creates newspaper headlines and  non-stop talk on the airwaves … the worse it will get.

Of course, the Browns should have seen it coming when Winslow, who on draft day said he would be happy with compensation relatively equivalent to what he No. 6 overall pick got last year, suddenly changed course.  A few weeks before camp opened and told WKNR talk show host Kenny Roda that he and a lot of other NFL people considered himself the No. 1 player in the draft and he expected to be compensated as such.

So, if that is truly how he and his agents feel, how could he ever accept the same contract as the No. 5 pick? Especially when you factor in the terms of the deal, which seemed to weigh heavily in Redskins management 's favor.

As a result, the Browns find themselves without a key component as camp gets under way. His absence, if it lasts just a few days, should not be noticeable once he regular season gets under way. But if there is an extended holdout, things could get ugly, both on and off the field.

Hopefully, everything is now being done behind the scenes to get a contract signed. That's the way it should be done now. And that's they way it should have been done from the get-go.

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