Earlier this evening, in what appears to be a decided attempt to put the issue at the forefront of the minds of Browns fans, Josh Cribbs contract situation suddenly flared up into a public firefight.
At about the same time as stories reflecting the Cribbs camp's unhappiness appeared in the Associated Press, Fox Sports, ESPN, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer, both Josh Cribbs and agent J.R.Rickert started twittering:
Cribbs: "Thanks everyone, I love playing for the browns & put my all in to it, but it doesn't look good 4me at this point on returning..."
Cribbs: "I don't believe I made the to do list for the team in 2010...."
Rickert: "I do not understand how Dawn Aponte and Mike Holmgren can defend their position, but they are alienating one of their best players."
Rickert: "1.4 per year is NOT even in the top 10 in the league for kick returners.....Are you kidding me or what??"
Rickert: "This is one the best special teams players in the history of the game and a player who has the ability to be a game changer at any moment"
The stories and tweets had their intended effect, as the Browns fanbase quickly exploded with frustration at the team's inability to sign the exciting record-setting returner. Other media outlets quickly followed suit, putting a threatened holdout on center stage in time for evening newscasts.
Browns fans have been through these sorts of things before in the post-expansion era, with Jamir Miller and Dennis Northcutt, for example, both taking contract fights public. After all, going public is one of the few recourses players have when they feel they are being paid under their value. In both of the above cases, after much furor and angry words in the press, the sides got back together and worked out a deal.
- The Cribbs situation is officially a very, very serious one.
- Josh Cribbs is not -- let me repeat that, with emphasis: IS NOT -- looking for Devin Hester-type money. FYI, Hester's deal averages in the neighborhood of $5.5 million.
- If the Browns offered a deal that averaged in the neighborhood $2.5-$3 million per season, plus some bonuses/incentives thrown in, that would be in the ballpark of what Cribbs is looking for.
- The Browns indeed offered Cribbs a deal that averages $1.4 million per season. It is their final, final offer. Or, as Dawn Aponte summed up the Browns' stance for now and in the future, "it'll be the same offer tomorrow, the same offer in March, and the same offer in September." Aponte's statements, emails and calls she has made in this situation the last week have been with the full authority of Mike Holmgren.
- Cribbs feels "deeply disrespected" over how he's been treated and lied to over the past two+ years. He has been told by Phil Savage, Romeo Crennel, Randy Lerner, George Kokinis and Eric Mangini that he will be taken care of. He was also told that Mike Holmgren would "treat him fairly". This latest offer is a slap in the face according to Cribbs, especially the stance that their low-ball offer is also their final offer.
- If the Browns do not come off their current position, Cribbs "will not step foot back in that facility. Ever."
- If the Browns do not come off their current position, Cribbs will push for a trade on the first day of the league year in March, provided the Browns give them permission to speak to other teams. If not, if he is not given permission to shop himself, he will continue to stay away from the team and not participate in any OTAs or minicamps. Or training camp for that matter.
- Just to tidy up this topic, Cribbs made $620,000 in 2009 and is scheduled to make $720,000 in 2010 according to NFLPA documents. His current contract runs through the 2012 season.