Browns' offer meant to pressure Winslow, agent

Updated: July 30, 2004, 8:37 PM ET
Associated Press

BEREA, Ohio -- Apparently 80 isn't the only number Kellen Winslow Jr. is after.

Winslow's agent rejected a contract offer -- potentially worth at least $40 million -- from the Cleveland Browns on Friday that would make him the highest-paid tight end in NFL history.

Winslow, the No. 6 overall pick in April's NFL draft, was not on the field as the Browns opened training camp.

"I believe the most disappointed guy is Kellen for not being here from the beginning with his teammates," coach Butch Davis said.

He's not the only one displeased.

The Browns are hoping to avoid a lengthy holdout with Winslow, the former University of Miami star. Winslow was issued No. 11 by the club during minicamp but wants No. 80 -- the number his father wore during his Hall of Fame career for San Diego.

However, No. 80 currently belongs to Aaron Shea, who will only give it up for the right price.

"It's going to cost him now," Shea joked. "And it's going to go up every day."

In an unusual move designed to put pressure on Winslow's agent, Kevin Poston, Browns president John Collins released a statement before the club opened camp to announce that the Browns had made their "best offer" to Winslow.

Collins said the Browns proposed a deal that matched the one safety Sean Taylor, the No. 5 pick and Winslow's college teammate, signed this week with Washington.

Taylor's package included a $7.2 million signing bonus that could exceed $13 million if he reaches incentives. The contract can reportedly escalate to $40 million over its length.

Also, the Browns said their offer would "far exceed" the $31 million deal Kansas City's Tony Gonzalez signed in 2002. That package included a $10 million signing bonus, the most ever for a tight end.

The Browns' negotiating tactic is unusual because teams almost never disclose contract figures -- even after a deal is done. But the Browns, who earlier this week said they would keep talks private, publicly provided the framework for negotiations.

Poston wouldn't elaborate on his decision to reject the offer.

"I do not negotiate in the media," Poston told The Associated Press. "We are continuing to negotiate with the Browns to obtain for Kellen Winslow II his fair market value."

Winslow is expected to be a major weapon this season for quarterback Jeff Garcia, who already is convinced the 6-foot-4, 250-pounder will be a star.

"Better than advertised," Garcia said following practice. "He's definitely the real deal and he's going to be a great player for years to come."

Winslow's holdout began one day after the New York Giants gave No. 1 pick Eli Manning a rookie-record $20 million in guaranteed money and No. 2 overall pick Robert Gallery received a potential $18.5 million in guaranteed bonuses from Oakland.

It's unclear what Poston wants, but the Browns feel their offer that matched Taylor's was more than fair.

"Given the close personal and competitive relationship between Kellen and Sean Taylor, as well as their equal talent level on different sides of the football, we did not want to penalize Kellen for being picked one slot below his former teammate," Collins said in the statement.

"Faced with the opportunity to get Kellen in camp on time, we made our best offer."

Poston and his brother, Carl, have a reputation for demanding the most for their clients. The Redskins passed on Winslow in the draft partly because Winslow chose the Postons as his agents.

One positive sign for the Browns is that wide receiver Reggie Williams, another client of the Postons, agreed to terms with Jacksonville on Friday. He was the ninth overall pick.

In their statement, the Browns said they examined Gonzalez's deal and their offer "provides Kellen Winslow the opportunity to far exceed Gonzalez's compensation."

The Browns traded a second-round pick to Detroit and moved up one spot from No. 7 so they could select Winslow, who was frequently double-teamed in college.

Cleveland's last three first-round picks -- center Jeff Faine, running back William Green and defensive tackle Gerard Warren -- briefly held out of camp before signing.

This one could last a lot longer.

But for now, Winslow has the support of his teammates.

"I'd understand if he has to be out a few days or a few weeks," Green said. "Nobody has any bad feelings toward Kellen."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press