Northcutt can't become unrestricted free agent

Updated: February 26, 2004, 8:52 PM ET
Associated Press

CLEVELAND -- About to finally make his run through NFL free agency, Browns wide receiver Dennis Northcutt and his agent dropped the ball.

Northcutt, who has spent four years waiting to cash in as a free agent, failed to file the proper paperwork with Cleveland in time. He is under contract with the Browns for three more seasons, the team said.

Oops.

In July 2000, Northcutt signed a seven-year contract that required him to notify the Browns by Feb. 19 if he planned to void the final three years of his deal.

According to the Browns, neither Northcutt nor his agent, Jerome Stanley, complied with the stipulation they inform the club by certified mail of their intentions to void the remaining three years of his deal.

So instead of signing a multimillion dollar deal elsewhere, Northcutt is stuck in Cleveland.

Team president Carmen Policy said Thursday the NFL Management Council verified Northcutt is under contract with the Browns through the 2006 season.

Northcutt wasn't the only player to miss a deadline. Pro Bowl receiver Terrell Owens failed to file papers voiding the final two years of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers and may miss out on free agency.

After last season, Northcutt said he anticipated getting a five-year contract with a $5 million signing bonus.

As he cleaned out his locker following Cleveland's disappointing 5-11 season, Northcutt was asked what it would take for him to be back with the Browns.

"This is what's going to keep me here," he said, rubbing his thumb and finger together in the universal sign for money. "Let's be real about it. This is a business."

Stanley did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment. He also represents Tampa Bay wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson and Cincinnati wide receiver Chad Johnson.

Northcutt made $450,000 last season. The Browns' second-round draft pick in 2000 led the club with 62 catches for 729 yards and two touchdowns last season. In 2002, he scored a team-high eight touchdowns and averaged 14.7 yards on punt returns, taking two back for TDs.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press