Although there has been progress in negotiations over the past few days, Cleveland Browns officials and the representatives for first-round draft pick Brady Quinn remain divided over how to structure escalator clauses in the contract, and the former Notre Dame quarterback remains out of training camp.
The two sides, said a source with direct knowledge of the bargaining process, have narrowed the gap over guaranteed money in the contract. But the escalators, which enhance the value of a contract if a player reaches certain predetermined playing time or performance levels, are still the most significant sticking point and a hurdle it will be difficult to overcome.
Quinn was the 22nd player chosen overall in April, with his stock slipping precipitously, despite being regarded by most as a top 10 prospect. He is one of just three first-round picks -- Oakland quarterback JaMarcus Russell, the top overall selection, and cornerback Darrelle Revis of the New York Jets, the No. 14 choice, are the others -- without contracts.
While he waits, the former four-year starter at Notre Dame has
been in touch with his college coach.
"I talk to him probably every other day, and he's doing fine,"
Fighting Irish coach Charlie Weis told The Associated Press. "He's anxious. He wants to
be in there. I think everyone wants that to get done, and hopefully
it'll get it done sooner rather than later."
Agent Tom Condon of CAA has proposed that the escalators would be triggered, raising Quinn's base salaries in the final two years of what would be a five-year deal, if the quarterback reaches a 55-percent playing time level in any two of the first three seasons of the contract, or a level of 70 percent playing time in any one of the first three years. The Browns want the triggers designed to be more difficult to achieve.
The structure proposed by Condon is similar to those used in contracts he negotiated for previous first-round quarterbacks, including Chad Pennington of the Jets, Byron Leftwich of Jacksonville and Arizona's Matt Leinart.
Under the plan proposed by the Quinn camp, the five-year contract would have a maximum value of about $30 million. If Quinn were to achieve the lowest-level escalators, the deal would be worth $20.25 million. Factoring in the lowest-level escalator values of all the other 2007 first-round choices over a five-year period, the Quinn model would rate as the ninth most valuable.
Cleveland officials have conceded that, because Quinn is a quarterback, they are willing to pay a premium that would be worth more than his No. 22 slot in the first round.
Coach Romeo Crennel told the Associated Press he still hasn't decided who will start
the Browns' exhibition opener on Saturday against the Kansas City
"It may be a coin flip before the game to decide," he said.
"However, they both are going to play in the game."
Meanwhile, it appears the Browns' deal with their other first-round selection, offensive tackle Joe Thomas of Wisconsin, was a good one for the franchise.
The third overall pick in the draft, Thomas signed a five-year contract that, according to NFL Players Association documents, includes between $18.7 million to $18.9 million in post-option guarantees, the total that will have been guaranteed when the Browns exercise an option payment next spring. The post-option guarantees had been previously reported at more than $23 million.
That is significantly less than the $27.17 million in guarantees that the Detroit Lions will pay wide receiver Calvin Johnson, the second overall choice. Johnson's per-year average of $9.25 million is also considerably larger than Thomas' $6.7 million. But one key caveat: The Johnson deal is for six years, while Thomas signed a five-year contract, and thus, will be eligible for free agency a year earlier.
Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.