Rookie is history's highest-paid tight end

Updated: August 12, 2004, 1:59 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

BEREA, Ohio -- Kellen Winslow Jr. was uncharacteristically humble after his first practice with the Cleveland Browns.

The rookie tight end, looking exhausted one day after a round of late-night negotiations resulted in a contract, acknowledged that he has a lot of catching up to do after a 12-day holdout.

"I am very far behind. My head is spinning," he said. "I've got a lot to learn."

Kellen Winslow II
Winslow , who worked out with the Browns' minicamp in April, has some catching up to do for this month's practices.

Winslow, who has called himself "The Chosen One" and said he expects to surpass his father's Hall of Fame career, signed a six-year contract Wednesday that makes him the highest-paid tight end in NFL history.

The contract is worth $29 million and could bring him up to $40 million if he reaches all his incentives. The deal includes $16.5 million in combined signing and option bonuses.

"It feels great, like I won the lottery," Winslow said.

His contract exceeds the $31 million deal Kansas City's Tony Gonzalez signed in 2002. That package included a $10 million signing bonus, which was the most ever for a tight end.

"I just wanted to get my fair-market value. I was the sixth pick, but I was in an elite group," Winslow said.

The Browns and Winslow's agent, Kevin Poston, were reportedly $12 million to $22 million apart, with Poston seeking a contract similar to the six-year, $54.6 million deal that wideout Charles Rogers received last year from Detroit.

With his father, Kellen Winslow Sr., and Poston looking on, Winslow Jr. caught two touchdown passes during practice with the Browns' second and third teams Wednesday morning. Winslow said he was rusty.

He also said Poston could tell he was getting frustrated with the contract talks, particularly after watching Monday night's Hall of Fame game.

"I felt anxious to get out there and play. I am tired. I couldn't sleep last night, I was so anxious to get here," Winslow said.

Browns coach Butch Davis said he needs to evaluate where Winslow is physically before deciding whether he will play in the team's opening preseason game Saturday at Tennessee.

"It's good to have him back out there. He looked like he had fresh legs," Davis quipped.

Winslow's teammates welcomed the 21-year-old to camp and said there would be no grudges because of the holdout. He won't get any special treatment, either, because of his name or big contract.

"All rookies get treated like peasants around here," defensive lineman Kenard Lang said.

Quarterback Jeff Garcia, who publicly told Winslow to put his teammates before his salary, said there were no hard feelings between the two.

"He said to me when he came in today, 'Are you ready to get after it?' " Garcia recalled. "I said, 'I've been ready. Are you ready? Let's go. Let's do this.' "

Winslow said he was glad Garcia urged him to get to camp.

"Obviously, Jeff is a leader and he wants to win. I felt the same way, but I just wanted to get a fair-market deal," he said.

The 6-foot-4, 250-pound Winslow is expected to open up the Browns' offense, with his combination of size and speed creating mismatches against linebackers and defensive backs.

"Physically, he knows how to run routes, he knows how to catch the football, and he knows how to get open," Garcia said. "To understand what we are doing offensively, that is going to be his main concern. I have no doubt that he will be able to catch up quickly."

The Browns sacrificed a second-round pick, trading with Detroit to move up one spot in April's draft, to select the former Miami star with the sixth selection.

Lang, another Miami product, says Winslow is the latest in a long line of outstanding Hurricane tight ends.

"From Bubba Franks, to [Jeremy] Shockey, to him. He's the next great one. He has to earn it. I believe he will," Lang said.

Information from The Associated Press and ESPN.com senior writer Len Pasquarelli was used in this report.

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