In the weeks since a very public and surprisingly hostile campaign was launched by Team Cribbs in order to pressure the Cleveland Browns into working on a new contract for the Pro Bowler, cooler and more intelligent heads have prevailed on both sides and could lead to a resolution of the dispute at some point in the not-too-distant future, theOBR has learned.
According to an organizational source, talks have picked up in recent days and "are moving along better than they ever had", especially when compared to the first few days of the Mike Holmgren Era.
In fact, the process is moving along so smoothly and the cautious optimism is so high right now that, per the source, a deal could be consummated before the start of the April draft. Or, if everything continues to fall into place at the same recent pace, even before the start of free agency in March.
Any optimism, the club source said, should be tempered by the fact that "no deal or tentative agreement is imminent", and "there could always be something unexpected that crops up and slows things down." However, based on the tenor of the recent talks, Josh Cribbs could be receiving in very short order the only thing he's been seeking – to be paid commensurate to his production and in line with what's been promised to him on multiple occasions over the past two years.
What turned the private negotiations into a public brouhaha – and set the process back -- was the new regime's initial offer to the Pro Bowler. As theOBR noted at the time, Cribbs' agent received what was almost universally perceived as a lowball offer -- $1.8 million annually – with an additional slap in Cribbs' face being former front office executive Dawn Aponte labeling it as the club's final offer.
Since that low point in the discussions, the "final" "lowball" offer has increased and, in turn, flipped the discussions toward the positive. As to where the financial numbers are right now, the Browns source would not reveal the specifics, but did intimate that the low end is in the neighborhood of $3 million annually and the upper end is around $5 million a year.
Those numbers "would be based heavily on incentives and where Josh is playing and things like that." There was no indication as to what type of guaranteed money is involved, but it's safe to assume that the absolute low end of Cribbs' expectations, based on conversations during the initial stages of this latest contract back and forth, would be somewhere around $5 million.
TheOBR reached one of Cribbs' agents, J.R. Rickert, via text seeking comment on the Browns' view of the negotiations, but Rickert would go no further than saying "we have had very positive discussions."