We knew the Browns and Joshua Cribbs were going to part ways, and after several false alarms it has happened.
Cribbs has a new team, the Oakland Raiders. He signed a one-year deal on Wednesday after a prolonged and strange free agency courtship that included plenty of suitors — and plenty of concern about the knee Cribbs had scoped after the Pro Bowl.
As recently as this week, Jets general manager John Idzik said publicly that his team’s medical staff believed the knee “wasn’t there yet.”
The Browns weren’t one of the suitors for Cribbs. Even though they never gave a straight answer as to why, it’s understandable. The Browns are new again at the coaching and administrative levels, and Cribbs was fazed out of the offense last year, became eligible for unrestricted free agency in March and turns 30 in June.
He’s not the same player he once was, but for a long time he was darn good.
Cribbs’ eight kickoff returns for touchdowns are tied with Leon Washington for the most in NFL history. He was also good covering kicks, and there was never any question about his work ethic or his desire to win. He never shied away from sharing his feelings in public, and his desire for a new contract in 2009 caused a stink, in part because the team stunk then.
He ended up getting his desired extension at a salary that wasn’t as big as advertised. The team got its money’s worth.
The best three players of the “new” Browns era are, in some order, Phil Dawson, Joe Thomas and Cribbs. Dawson and Cribbs both left via free agency for Northern California this offseason.
Signing a one-year deal with the Raiders means Cribbs needed a job. The Raiders figure they’ll get their money’s worth, too, and see what’s still in the tank. Even if Cribbs never gets to play in a playoff game, his journey from skinny Kent State quarterback to undrafted utility man and top-level return man has been a remarkable one.
Someday, he’ll go into the Browns’ Ring of Honor (or whatever the people who are running the team at the time call it). That his exit now is nothing more than a simple line in the daily NFL transactions says a lot about the fleeting, unforgiving nature of the NFL.
To say the least, it’s a tough business. Here, Cribbs will be remembered as one tough dude.