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Cribbs gets new 3-year deal from Browns

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Pro Bowl return specialist Josh Cribbs finally has a new three-year contract with the Cleveland Browns.

After two seasons of threats, broken promises and back-and-forth negotiations, the Browns have restructured the final three years of the six-year deal Cribbs signed in 2006.

Cribbs and new Browns president Mike Holmgren announced the deal, which includes $7.5 million in guaranteed money, minutes before Cleveland's most popular player was scheduled to make an appearance at an auto show in front of hundreds of Browns fans.

The total value of the contract has been reported at over $18 million.

"I'm excited," Cribbs said at the team's headquarters before being whisked away in a car waiting outside the building. "It's been a long road. It worked out. We reached a good compromise. I'm happy to wear this uniform proudly as I've been saying the whole time."

Cribbs is the NFL's career leader with eight kickoff returns for touchdowns. Last season, he returned three kickoffs and one punt for a TD.

Holmgren inherited a sticky situation with Cribbs.

An undrafted free agent, Cribbs and his agents maintained that Cleveland's previous management team had assured them they would redo his contract. Cribbs had threatened to hold out in training camp and then again for the regular season, but buckled and continued to play.

Cribbs was seeking a deal comparable to the four-year, $40 million deal Devin Hester signed with the Bears.

As the season dragged on, Browns fans sided with Cribbs with some of them starting a "Pay the Man" campaign. After the season ended and Cribbs didn't have his new contract, he expressed his disgust by saying he may have played his last game for the Browns.

Holmgren, who was hired in January, stepped in and was able to patch up any difference Cribbs and his representatives had with the club. Holmgren said he believed Cribbs had outperformed his previous contract and should have been rewarded.

"In Josh's case, they (Cribbs and his agents) had a good point," Holmgren said. "I could say, 'No, we're not going to do it' but that would be kind of silly. He had certainly earned the right to have the discussion at the very least. And once we dove into it, someone had to make the call, so I made the call."

Browns coach Eric Mangini wants to expand Cribbs' role in Cleveland's offense next season.