Joshua Cribbs: How Much Did the Browns' Return Man Actually Make?

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

I published an article Tuesday night breaking down whether the Cleveland Browns should re-sign Joshua Cribbs to a new contract. In that article, I casually mentioned that Cribbs raked in $2.688 million, which was data that I obtained from Spotrac, a place that does a good job at accumulating contract data for NFL players.

The first comment that I received in that thread was, "I didn’t realize he was that cheap." That triggered a thought in my mind -- why wasn't the value higher than $2.688 million? Everyone should remember the heated negotiations that took place between Cribbs and former team president Mike Holmgren back in 2010. Cribbs had a deal signed through 2012, but wanted his deal restructured.

Finally, in March 2010, it was widely reported that Cribbs restructured his contract so that he would earn about $20 million over the final three years of his deal. On average, that would be close to $6.66 million per year, which is no where close to what Cribbs made in 2012. What happened?

Perhaps out of unnecessary curiosity, I went digging for as much information as I could find about Cribbs' contract after he restructured. Multiple sources indicated that the max value of the contract was actually $15.496 million over three years, so I'm not too sure where the $20 million came from. Per the data I collected, here is how the max value of Cribbs' contract would have been broken down:

Regarding Max Contract Above: In the bottom right corner, you can see that the $15.896 million is actually $400,000 more than the $15.496 value I reported above. The reason for this, presumably, is because Cribbs had guaranteed money in his original six-year contract that he signed from 2006 that would have been originally spaced out from 2010-2012. Because his deal was restructured in 2010, that original $400,000 got automatically committed to the cap in 2010, which is why Cribbs' signing bonus is $1.5 million in that year and only $1.1 million in each of the final two years.

It's hard to tell what the "likely to be earned" bonuses are, but basically, you can assume that almost every NFL player will get that. Likewise, it's hard to know what the "not likely to be earned" escalators are, but as the title says, they are unlikely to be earned. Right off the bat, that is $4.2 million that kind of skews the valued $15.496 million deal Cribbs was supposed to get.

What are potential escalators? There are certain incentives that players can meet in the NFL. For Cribbs, these incentives were likely tied to making the Pro Bowl, and having a certain number of receptions, yards, or touchdowns. There can be multiple escalators, so players can earn anywhere between zero and all of the amount; it's not always an "all-or-nothing" type of deal.

If any escalators are earned, they are added to that player's base salary. The escalators are triggered based on performances from the previous year. In other words, if Cribbs did something well in 2010, his base salary would shoot up in 2011. If Cribbs did well in 2011, his base salary would shoot up in 2012. If Cribbs did well in 2012...well, he's a free agent the following year, so there is no base salary to increase. The idea is that "you're playing in a contract year, so earn yourself a new contract."

Below, let's take a look at what Cribbs actually earned, when everything was all said and done.

Regarding Actual Earned Contract Above: The signing bonus, workout bonus, and likely to be earned bonuses all remained the same. Cribbs did not make any of the "unlikely to be earned" bonuses. He did earn partial escalators in 2011 and 2012, though. In 2011, Cribbs met some escalator that was worth $125,000, so his base salary increased from $832,000 to $957,000. In 2012, Cribbs met some escalator that was worth $512,500, so his base salary increased from $925,500 to $1,438,000. Similarly, Colt McCoy had some escalator triggered that increased his base salary for 2013.

What did Cribbs do in 2011 to earn such a high escalator compared to 2010? Well, he had one of his worst return game seasons ever in 2010, but he posted career highs as a receiver in 2011. It is possible that those receiving stats triggered the escalator. He did not make the Pro Bowl in either season, though, which was reportedly a known escalator in his contract. If he had made that, his base salary in 2011 and 2012 would have been much higher. For fans who don't think the Pro Bowl counts, in cases like this, it can be a big motivator for a player.

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This is the first time I've tried to tackle a player's contract in-depth, so let me know what you guys thought of it. Was it informative? Are there any other players on the Browns, past or present, who you would be interested in seeing a similar report on?

Data in this post compiled from Spotrac, Ian Whetstone, and Mac's Football Blog.

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