BEREA, Ohio -- Josh Cribbs hopes his patience is finally going to pay off in a big way.
Cribbs had expressed optimism this week that he'd get a new deal with the Browns. On Thursday, he told The Associated Press why he was encouraged: Cribbs said the Browns told him during the team's bye week they want to have a new contract in place by the end of the season, ending what has been a sticky negotiation since training camp.
"They told me they wanted to do something before the year was over," Cribbs said. "Coach [Eric] Mangini has been optimistic about it as well. He's told me directly I deserve a new contract and he would work to get it done."
Cribbs wouldn't say specifically who told him the deal could be finalized by the end of the season, only that it happened while the Browns were off the weekend of Nov. 8.
In their first game following the open week, Cribbs was carted off the field on a stretcher following the final play of the team's loss to Baltimore on Monday Night Football. He said then that the entire situation increased his urgency to get a new deal done.
Cribbs has three years left on his existing deal, which pays him $6.77 million over six years, but believes he merits a raise now. By far the most dynamic player on the Browns roster, Cribbs has blossomed into an integral part of the offense after building a reputation as a special teams star his first four years in the NFL.
"We're positive. We're upbeat," Cribbs' agent, J.R. Rickert said. "I'm confident both sides will put forth the best effort they can to get something done."
Rickert believes it is in the Browns' best interest to get something done before the season ends, so any signing bonus can be added to his salary this year and count against the 2009 salary cap. The Browns are believed to be well under the cap.
If a new labor agreement cannot be reached and there is no salary cap next season, that won't matter. But Rickert still believes negotiations are heading in the right direction after the two sides experienced contentious moments over the last six months.
"I believe the situation can be worked out," he said.
Mangini on Thursday again declined to offer a timeline to complete a new deal, but reiterated his admiration for a player who is quickly becoming the team's MVP.
"I really like Josh. I really do, not just as a player, but as a person, as a part of the organization, his dedication, his sacrifice," Mangini said. "He is selfless."
Cribbs began voicing his displeasure with his contract over the summer, when he sat out a voluntary minicamp. But he reported to training camp on time and has done all that has been asked of him by the new Browns' coaching staff.
"I'm very happy with the way I handled it," Cribbs said. "I kept my head down and just kept playing."
Negotiations could get slowed again by the Browns' search for a new head of football operations.
The team brought in Mike Holmgren this week, but he left town without a new contract. Cribbs feels he's already been burned once by a regime change. Cribbs has maintained he was promised by owner Randy Lerner after last season he would get a new deal, but that changed when former GM Phil Savage and coach Romeo Crennel were fired and Mangini was hired.
With talk of a restructured football operation again bubbling up, Cribbs acknowledged he's concerned he'll have to start all over again.
"How many more times do I have to prove myself?" he said.