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Winslow gets reprieve from the Browns on contract


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Deal would give Winslow chance to recover moneyBy Len Pasquarelli


BEREA, Ohio -- While there remain some details to be finalized, the Cleveland Browns are close to an agreement with tight end Kellen Winslow that will allow the club's 2004 first-round draft choice to recoup the bonus money that has been or will be withheld from him because of the season-ending knee injury sustained in a May 1 motorcycle accident.

Kellen Winslow

Tight End

Cleveland Browns



Rec Yds TD Avg Long YAC

5 50 0 10.0 21 22

The agreement, which one source termed "very close," would also extend Winslow's contract by one year.

The Browns have already withheld a $2 million payment that was due Winslow on July 15 as part of his original $6 million signing bonus. Neither will the club make a payment of $950,000, also part of the signing bonus, that is due by Dec. 15. And Cleveland will not pay $2.4 million due July 15, 2006 that was part of a $4.4 million option bonus.

Under the pending agreement, Winslow would have the ability to recover that money if he meets certain performance levels and also adheres to strict off-field conditions. Also of note is that, under the proposal currently under discussion by the two sides, the Browns will reserve the right to seek repayment of the bonus money Winslow has collected to this point if he breaches his contract in any way a second time.

"He doesn't get a 'mulligan' on the first breach of contract," said a source familiar with the negotiations. "[The team] can still come after that money. On the other hand, it offers him a chance to make back the bonus money he lost by breaching the contract the first time. It's very fair."

To date, Winslow has banked $5.05 million in bonuses: Separate payments of $2 million and $1.05 million that were part of his $6 million signing bonus, and of $2 million that was a part of his option bonus. ESPN.com reported in May that the Browns likely would attempt to recover about $3 million of that amount, but team officials ultimately decided against that.

The Browns essentially are treating the $5.05 million as a loan that will be forgiven if Winslow is productive on the field and experiences no further problems off it.

Clearly, the pending agreement represents a compromise, one that permits the Browns to send a message that they did not take lightly Winslow's blatant breach of contract by riding a motorcycle, but which also permits the talented tight end to still have a deal that is commensurate to his abilities if he recovers and is productive. The two sides have been discussing for weeks a way to find middle ground in resolving the obvious issues raised by the accident. Apparently, those negotiations have been amicable and a deal is close.

At least twice in Winslow's contract -- in the "optional extension agreement" and in the "signing, reporting and playing bonus addendum" -- there is specific language regarding the off-field activities in which the player is precluded from participating. The sections of both addendums are similar and refer to "hazardous activities" that "involve a significant risk of personal injury ... including, but not limited to skydiving, hang gliding, mountain climbing, auto racing, motorcycling, scuba diving and skiing."

The contract, executed on Aug. 11, 2004, also reads: "It is further understood and agreed that player's waiver of rights to certain unpaid amounts, and player's obligation to re-pay certain amounts of [these bonuses] are express provisions of this contract and, but for the provisions herein contained, club would not have executed this contract."

Winslow tore the anterior cruciate ligament of his right knee and also suffered internal injuries in the May 1 motorcycle accident. He underwent mid-June surgery to repair his knee and will miss the entire season.

The sixth player chosen overall in the '04 draft, Winslow appeared in just two games as a rookie. The former University of Miami star had five receptions for 50 yards before breaking his right leg while attempting to recover an onside kick late in a Sept. 19 game at Dallas.

Because of the two injuries he has suffered, Winslow has essentially lost about $10 million that he could have earned in incentives.

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The Browns essentially are treating the $5.05 million as a loan that will be forgiven if Winslow is productive on the field and experiences no further problems off it.

If I were the Browns I would not count on Winslow making good on this "loan".

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