Browns must maximize Cribbs’ value

Signing KR/WR Josh Cribbs in Cleveland should be near the top of the priority list for Browns team president Mike Holmgren.

Yes, there are some bigger holes, such as the quarterback position and the futures of both Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson, but getting that deal done with Cribbs is something that needs to be addressed.

According to Jason La Canfora of NFL.com, both sides have made “significant progress” and, although there hasn’t been a set deadline, a new deal should be in place at some point this offseason.

Now, head coach Eric Mangini needs to get his money’s worth out of Cribbs.

Just like we saw in the past with Devin Hester in Chicago, you don’t pay out huge sums of money to kick returners. They need to do more and they need to be more involved in the Sunday game plan to justify the big coin. Don’t take that as a knock on the return game — because I do value it more than the next writer — but when it comes to money, it has to be spent appropriately.

And, as we all know about Hester, he is being paid to return kicks. But more importantly, he is being paid to catch passes as the team’s No. 1 or No. 2 — however you look at it — wide receiver in Chicago.

Cribbs is still a raw offensive talent in my mind. But, he needs to get more touches. In ’09, Cribbs had 55 carries and 20 receptions. Not enough.

I could see Cribbs in the backfield, in the slot and outside the numbers in certain situations where he is on the field to get the football. A third-down back? The wildcat? Anything that puts him in a position to get the football in his hands. This is a player that should be able to match up and beat most Nickel Corners in the NFL when he is aligned inside of the numbers.

But, stay away from situations and formations that label him as a “gadget guy.” If the Browns are going to invest the money in Cribbs, he has to be active on offense. The last thing Holmgren wants to see is his new money guy coming in to run reverses and exotic plays.

I know it is early in the offseason, and I also know that this story started to play out last August during training camp. But, I am in favor of keeping Cribbs in Cleveland long term because he does have enough ability to develop into something special on offense.

The Browns just need to allow that to happen.

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