Despite broadcast reports claiming tight end Kellen Winslow has agreed to a contract with the Cleveland Browns, team officials said Tuesday afternoon that they do not have a deal in place with Winslow, although they hinted there has been progress in the long and difficult negotiations.
ESPN.com has learned that Browns team president John Collins will meet Tuesday night with representatives for Winslow, a former Miami Hurricane who was the sixth player chosen overall in April and one of only three first-round picks still without a contract.
League sources said that the Browns are likely to increase their offer on the signing bonus and total guaranteed money, but will not go beyond the $40 million ceiling they have established. Two weeks ago, the Browns, in a clever public relations offensive, announced publicly that they had offered Winslow the same contract as the player who was chosen ahead of him, his former Miami teammate Sean Taylor.
The move was an intriguing bit of gamesmanship, one in which the team seized some of the public momentum away from agents Carl and Kevin Poston, whose history is rife with long holdouts and contentious bargaining. In essence, Cleveland put its offer on the table for Winslow and then publicly put its cards on the table, demonstrating to its fans the importance of getting the tight end into camp.
Collins suggested over the weekend that the Browns probably would enhance their first offer, with some wiggle room available on the signing bonus.
The Poston brothers, sources said, have been seeking a contract similar to the one they negotiated for Detroit Lions wide receiver Charles Rogers, the second overall choice in the 2003 draft. Rogers received $14.4 million in aggregate bonus money. Taylor got about $13 million in total bonuses.
Winslow's representatives were also said to be asking for back-end escalators more in line for a wide receiver, not a tight end.
After days locked in impasse, there seems to have been recent movement to close a huge financial gap, and the two sides apparently felt they were getting close enough in some areas that the Tuesday night meeting was set.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com