BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – It could be argued that Isaiah Crowell is the lone established offensive weapon the Cleveland Browns possess as they enter the 2017 season.
Sure, others might emerge including second-year receiver Corey Coleman, but as training camp gets underway, the Browns know exactly what they have and will get from No. 34.
That’s why as far as Crowell, who enters the final year of his contract and can be an unrestricted free agent next March, is concerned it’s time for the Browns to not only feed the Crow but pay him too.
“This is where I want to be,” Crowell said Friday prior to the team’s second practice of training camp. “I’m comfortable with my teammates, love my teammates, love my coaches and just love the city of Cleveland, so this is where I want to be.”
Unfortunately for Crowell, he’s a running back and in the modern world of the NFL they’re interchangeable and very much replaceable which is why teams don’t like breaking off massive contracts to them, no matter how skilled they are.
Just look to Pittsburgh where the Steelers opted to use the franchise tag on running back Le’Veon Bell, who ran for 1,268 yards while adding 616 receiving yards and scoring 9 touchdowns – 7 of them on the ground last season, instead of locking him up long term.
Crowell knows it too.
“I know our position is, I don’t want to say downgraded, but I want to say a lot of teams don’t commit to the running back,” Crowell said. “But I feel like we do a lot, we pass protect, we’ve got to catch the ball, run the ball, take a lot of hits and different stuff, we’ve got to sacrifice a lot, so I feel like when you do it at a high, high level, you deserve to get rewarded.”
So, what will it take for that trend to change in the NFL?
“To be honest right now, I really don’t know. I wish I did,” Crowell said.
Within the last month Crowell hired super agents Drew and Jason Rosenhaus to represent him in the hopes that the duo will get him paid.
“I just feel like it was the right move for me,” Crowell said. “It’s what I deserve. I deserve to be with one of the top agents and that’s just how I feel.”
Crowell is scheduled to make $2.75 million this season and he confirmed that the Rosenhaus’ have been in “heavy communication” with the Browns about a long-term deal. He made a total of $1.54 million over 3 years after signing as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2014.
He’s averaged 4.3 yards per carry and rushed for 2,265 yards and 19 touchdowns in 3 seasons with the Browns.
Crowell is explosive. And consistent.
He ripped off an 85-yard touchdown run in Week 2 against Baltimore last year – the second-longest TD run in franchise history – and 18 of his 531 career carries have gone for 20 or more yards. He’s also caught 4 passes that have resulted in a gain of at least 20 yards.
Despite not getting more than 19 carries in a single game last season, Crowell ran for 952 yards and averaged 4.8 yards per carry on a 1-15 team that featured an offensive line decimated by injuries.
The Browns invested heavily in the offensive line extending Joel Bitonio – 5 years, $51 million – and signing center JC Tretter – 3 yards, $16.75 million and right guard Kevin Zeitler – 5 years, $60 million – this offseason.
And so the bar for Crowell has been set much higher this year – as in 1,300-1,400 yards.
“It’s very realistic,” Crowell said with a big smile.
Following the season head coach Hue Jackson acknowledged he did not use Crowell enough in 2016 and pledged that would change this year.
“It feels good to have my teammates trust in me and my coaches trust me and believe in me,” Crowell said. “I’ve still got to go out here and work hard and prove myself to the world and to everybody, so it’s a lot to prove so I’m working hard to try to do that.”