Friday, February 8


As per the Plain Dealer, Browns tight end Kellen Winslow II reportedly intends to renegotiate his contract sometime in the near future. Winslow expressed said aspirations during a Thursday interview with Sirius NFL Radio, stating, “When I got hurt (in 2005) the contract got renegotiated so some things changed but I think I've proven these past two years that I'm one of the elite tight ends.” When later asked directly whether or not he wants a new contract, Winslow replied, “Yeah. Hope so. Hope so.”

Winslow’s comments will no doubt come as a mild surprise and a definite disappointment to most Browns fans, as they represent a stark contrast from the team-oriented, media-friendly workhorse version of Winslow we were privy to in ‘07. After a tumultuous 2006 season during which Winslow and teammate Braylon Edwards created clubhouse problems and were Browns’ resident divas, it was equally refreshing and shocking to see each of the team’s uber talented receivers toe the line last season. But locker room malcontents are often prone to relapses, and perhaps we’re seeing that with Winslow.

There were certainly warning signs that Winslow was pondering a renegotiation. Remember when Winslow cut his ties to the controversial Poston brothers in June, instead electing to hire the infamous Drew Rosenhaus? Bob Sugar, er, Rosenhaus, is known for his high profile NFL clients, who include Plaxico Burress, Frank Gore, Chad Johnson, Willis McGahee, Terrell Owens, and Jeremy Shockey, among others. But Rosenhaus is almost certainly best-known for his representation of Terrell Owens during Owens’ well-publicized holdout of summer 2005. If you’re an NFL superstar, and you want to renegotiate your contract, you’re probably going to give Rosenhaus a ring. Winslow’s hiring of Rosenhaus should have been seen as a clear red flag by the Browns: the Soldier was looking for a financial promotion.

I can see where Winslow’s coming from because as the old adage goes, NFL stands for “Not For Long.” Contracts in Major League Baseball and the NBA are guaranteed; when the Cavaliers sign Larry Hughes for $65 million, unfortunately, they have to pay him every freaking dime. In the NFL, the only money that’s guaranteed is the signing bonus, which is why the onus is always on player agents to seek a lucrative bonus during negotiations.

Given the volatile nature of the NFL, a player could be a stud pulling down eight figures one year - and as a result of injury, age, or simply poor performance - cut loose the very next season. NFL players are always one career-ending injury away from being unemployed, and given his history, Winslow knows this better than most.

In fact, several serious knee surgeries (one of which was closer to a total rebuild than a surgery) have limited some of Winslow’s capabilities on the field, in addition to shortening his career in all likelihood. In a perfect world Winslow’s bionic knee would work just as well as Steve Austin’s, but it’s just not so. Winslow knows that his biological clock is ticking at an accelerated rate, and if he doesn’t get paid now, there’s a good chance that he never will. In that light, I can sympathize with K2.

All that said, Winslow needs to remember that the Browns have been pretty good to him over the years. Rewind to 2005. Following a rookie season that was cut short by a broken right fibula followed by a pair of knee surgeries, Winslow made one of the worst decisions in the history of bad decisions; he decided that he was X Games BMX biker Mat Hoffman. While working on his stunt repertoire in a parking lot, Winslow ran into a curb faster than Kirstie Alley sprints after an ice cream truck. His 2005 season over, Winslow’s career was also in doubt.

To make matters worse for the Miami Hurricane, many speculated that the Browns would seek to recoup a prorated portion of Winslow’s bonus money. Due to Winslow’s daredevil reputation, the Browns had added specific language to his contract that prohibited motorcycle riding, along with various other high risk activities. Winslow’s motorcycle injury essentially represented a breach of contract.

The Browns fully supported Winslow throughout both of his recoveries. Not only that, they didn’t attempt to recoup any of the bonus money that Winslow essentially forfeited when he violated the language of his contract. The Browns drafted a new contract for Winslow, much of which was incentive-based. Winslow’s revised contract was one year longer, but would allow him to regain much of the money he had lost due to injury by way of incentives.

The Browns were by no means required to do any of that for Winslow, who had to that point been a very poor investment, and the fact that they went out on a limb for the young receiver represented an extraordinary display of goodwill. In spite of all that, here we stand, with Winslow chomping at the bit for a bump in compensation.

This is a situation where money shouldn’t be the bottom line. The Cleveland Browns and their fans treated Kellen Winslow pretty damn well during the turbulent times of his first two “seasons.” Now it’s time for Winslow to repay the Browns in kind. Kellen Winslow is in Cleveland’s debt, and the best way that he can fulfill that debt is by playing out his current contract, and by continuing to produce at an elite level for the Browns. This is one case in the NFL that isn’t “all business.” For Winslow, this should be a matter of honor.

Will anything come of Winslow’s comments? We’ll just have to wait and see. Phil Savage would be well within his rights to take a hard line stance on any renegotiations, as Winslow is under contract through 2010. If history has taught us anything it’s that when push comes to shove, players have trouble saying “no” to game checks. Recent high profile holdouts like Lance Briggs, Terrell Owens, Asante Samuel, and Michael Strahan all caved when faced with surrendering millions of dollars.

But unfortunately for Phil Savage, a hypothetical Winslow holdout has the potential to undermine the clubhouse harmony and winning culture that the Browns have worked so hard to build. And after only the second winning season in 14 years, the thought of such a regression is nothing short of nauseating.

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