April 19, 2014

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Browns: Joshua Cribbs believes he’s gone

Three-time Pro Bowler Joshua Cribbs thinks he’ll be playing elsewhere in 2013 despite his desire to remain in Cleveland.

Cribbs

“I’m not very optimistic (of re-signing),” he said Thursday during an interview on WKNR 850-AM. “We’re exploring the options of other teams at this point.

“You know where my head is, I really would love to stay a Cleveland Brown. I want to end my career here. It’s too early to tell. The next week or two will tell the tale.”

Cribbs, an ace special teamer and backup receiver, is set to become a free agent March 12. He said his agent has met with Browns CEO Joe Banner but doesn’t see much progress.

“There’s nothing really being talked about,” said Cribbs, who originally signed as an undrafted free agent in 2005. “I believe I can be a big part of this football team. I don’t feel that they feel like that as well.”

At the combine last week, Banner wouldn’t reveal what the team plans to do with its soon-to-be free agents. Banner is trying to build a roster that will be a consistent winner for years, and Cribbs will be 30 in June.

Cribbs continued to be effective in the kicking game last year — he made the Pro Bowl as the kick return alternate after averaging 12.0 yards on punt returns and 27.4 on kickoffs, and added nine tackles — but was an afterthought in Pat Shurmur’s offense. He caught seven passes for 9 yards and didn’t have a rushing attempt. The previous season he had a career-high 41 catches for 518 yards and four touchdowns.

Cribbs isn’t ready to be relegated to special teams and thinks new coach Rob Chudzinski and coordinator Norv Turner can take advantage of his skills on offense. Cribbs has started 31 games in his career with time at receiver and Wildcat quarterback and believes his production helps a team win.

“For me not to be a part of the offense, I’m not OK with that,” Cribbs said. “To say, ‘Hey, you’re just a special teams guy,’ I’m not OK with that. Especially after catching 42 (sic) balls as a No. 3, No. 4 receiver.

“I feel I have a lot of football left. I believe Coach Turner can utilize my skills.”

Cribbs said Banner wants him to take a pay cut. Cribbs is open to a reduction from his 2012 salary of $1.4 million but wants a deal loaded with incentives.

“I believe I can be used in other avenues,” he said. “When a team tells you to take a pay cut they’re going to decrease your role even more. I don’t want that.

“I’m willing to take a pay cut on base salary, but give me the opportunity to make it up in incentives. Let me earn it on the field.”

Cribbs said there will be a lot of interest across the league if he hits the market and “wheels are turning behind closed doors.” The Steelers and Ravens have seen Cribbs’ value for years and seem likely suitors.

“They’d have to come to me with ridiculous numbers,” he said. “Realistically, that is not my intentions. I have no intentions of playing in our division.”

Ideally, he’d stay in the AFC North — with the Browns.

“I’m trying to push my agent and the Browns to reach an agreement so I can stay a Cleveland Brown,” he said. “I want to stay here for the community.”

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.