Northcutt files grievance against Browns

OWINGS MILLS – Wide receiver Dennis Northcutt is attempting to litigate his way off the Cleveland Browns' roster by filing a grievance against his employer with the NFL management council.<br><br> The Ravens have reportedly offered their fourth and seventh-round draft picks to Cleveland for Northcutt, a highly-regarded return specialist whose agent missed a Feb. 19 deadline that would have voided the remainder of Northcutt's contract and made him a free agent.<br>

Agent Jerome Stanley will apparently argue in the grievance that the Browns are treating Northcutt in a punitive manner because they are requesting more from the AFC North champion Ravens than other suitors because they are in the same division.

Stanley apparently won't try to argue the point of the missed deadline. Northcutt has vowed that he won't play for the Browns again and only wants to play for Baltimore.

However, the NFL management council already ruled prior to free agency that Northcutt would remain under contract through 2006. He's unhappy with a contract that will pay him an average salary of $700,000 for the next three years.

"I'm afraid they are so mean-spirited they will decide, ‘Let's hurt him because we can,'" Stanley told The Plain Dealer of Cleveland. "This is not a team trying to help themselves."

To which, Browns president Carmen Policy countered: "There's absolutely no justification for a grievance. Where's the breach of a contract. We didn't have a contract [after Feb. 19]. It expired. And we bargained right up until that deadline, so I don't see how that's bargaining in bad faith."

Having already had their trade for All-Pro wide receiver Terrell Owens nullified this off-season through a settlement before NFL special master Stephen Burbank ruled officially on Owens' case, it's unclear how the Ravens will treat this matter. 

It's likely that Baltimore would just observe the proceedings and retain an interest in Northcutt, 26, if he was granted free-agent status depending upon how rich the asking price.

It's unclear whether Baltimore would be asked to testify in another special-master case based on their trade discussions with Cleveland. 

Policy has been the most outspoken Cleveland representative against trading Northcutt to the Ravens, saying he would require a second-round pick at least and perhaps even a first-round pick since Baltimore is "the gold standard" of the AFC North.

Although Policy is leaving the Browns and will be replaced by John Collins, he's still under contract through the draft. Plus, Browns coach Butch Davis has said he wants to receive "proper value" for trading Northcutt.

Northcutt caught 62 passes for 729 yards last season. 

Regardless of the outcome of the Northcutt situation, the Ravens have said they will likely draft a wide receiver during the first day of this year's draft with the current plan being to possibly sign a veteran receiver after the draft.

Baltimore ranked first in rushing last season, but had the worst passing game in the NFL. 

Ravens coach Brian Billick has said he's not optimistic about striking a trade for Northcutt. He said the team will likely have to wait until the draft to address its most pressing personnel need.

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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