BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – Isaiah Crowell has been through this before.
Crowell, who will make $2.746 million this season after receiving a second-round tender this offseason as a restricted free agent, finds himself back in ‘prove it’ mode as he enters his fourth NFL season with the Cleveland Browns.
He can become an unrestricted free agent next March where he hopes to land a big payday, but first he’ll need a strong season to earn it.
“I feel like it’s a constant battle,” Crowell said. “Each year I had to prove myself how good of a player I am. But I’m used to it. It’s not a big deal.”
Crowell increased his average yards per carry by a full yard last season from 2015 – up from 3.8 yards per carry to 4.8 – and he finished 48 yards shy of the coveted 1,000-yard benchmark for running backs despite not receiving at least 20 carries in a single game in 2016.
Head coach Hue Jackson has vowed to change that this year as he builds the offense behind a stronger offensive line and run game while questions persist at quarterback.
Crowell hopes another strong year will finally bring some recognition his way as one of the better backs in the game.
“I feel like it’s time for that to change and that’s why I’m just trying to go out here and prove myself, just each and every play when I’m out there on the field, so that won’t be the case,” Crowell said.
Over his previous 3 seasons Crowell earned $1.54 million combined after signing as an undrafted free agent. He hired super agents Drew and Jason Rosenhaus before training camp to handle his next contract, which he’s expecting to be a big one.
“I know what type of player I am, what caliber of player I am,” Crowell said. “I’m going to go out there and just try to prove it to everybody so that’s the main thing I can do is just work hard and just really just try to help my team get some wins.”
While running backs around the NFL are widely devalued financially by teams, a positive for Crowell is the 5-year, $41.25 million deal that included a $15 million signing bonus and $22 million guaranteed Falcons runner Devonta Freeman received last week.
“I feel like he changed the market,” Crowell said. “I feel like it’s a great deal for him and I feel like it’s just a great deal for all the running backs who are out here right now that deserve to get paid. So I’m happy for him.”
Freeman however is a 2-time pro bowler who also just played in a Super Bowl.
Crowell, who has seen the Browns win just 11 games and lose 37 over his first 3 seasons, aspires to reach similar heights – and dollar figures.
“I’m just trying to just be patient, I know my time is coming,” Crowell said.