The Cleveland Browns actually have the upper hand in one area - Joshua Cribbs' contract.
The Browns are last in the AFC North Division, last in total defense and close to the bottom in every offensive category, but they stand tall when staring down Cribbs' big-money demands.
Cribbs, who ill-advisedly signed a six-year, $6.7 million contract extension in 2006, feels he's underpaid by NFL standards. He's asked the Browns through agent J.R. Rickert for a new deal or a trade.
The company line seems to be to wait a while longer to see if Cribbs continues to flash his magic. After all, the Browns have time on their side - the contract doesn't end until after the 2012 season.
If management is waiting for Cribbs to show signs of wear and tear, it's not happening. If anything, his value has increased as coach Eric Mangini has begun to make more use of him as a back in the Wildcat formation.
The return games, however, are where Cribbs is making the most noise. Through six games he's averaging 28.4 yards on 23 kick returns, which is highest among all NFL players that have returned at least 20 kicks. Included among the returns was a 98-yarder for a touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Cribbs has a league-leading 16.8-yard average on 17 punt returns (excluding Fred Jackson's one return for 27 yards for the Buffalo Bills). He returned a punt 67 yards for a touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings.
Several teams reportedly expressed an interest in acquiring Cribbs (the Dolphins, Colts, Chiefs, Raiders, Jaguars and 49ers were mentioned), but he remained with the Browns when the trading deadline passed Tuesday afternoon. If management doesn't offer him a new deal, he's stuck with a bad contract on a bad team for the rest of the season.
It's a touchy call when picking sides in this fight. The first reaction might be to say $620,000 a year would look good to someone collecting unemployment compensation, but everyone should be paid fairly, no matter how out of whack athletes' contracts are in comparison to the rest of the working world.
Another angle is that no one forced Cribbs to sign the contract. He's bound legally by its terms and, if he's a true professional, he'll put aside his displeasure and play out the remaining years.
A more logical way to view it is that Cribbs is the best player on the team. An argument could easily be made for offensive tackle Joe Thomas, who's having perhaps his best season. Others might pick nose tackle Shaun Rogers, but he can be inconsistent.
The bottom line is that Cribbs' value exceeds his pay scale. In comparing his contributions to teammates making more than him and producing less, it's a no-brainer to say that Cribbs deserves a raise.
Management is probably waiting to see if the experiment with Cribbs as a receiver will work. Mangini has made a more concerted attempt to make it work than did his predecessor, Romeo Crennel, but the numbers aren't playing out in Cribbs' favor nine receptions for 39 yards.
A good lawyer might point out that Cribbs could sue for lack of support. Exhibit 'A' would be a photo of Brady Quinn. Exhibit 'B' would be a photo of Derek Anderson. That would be a good time to rest the case and send it to the jury.
Unfortunately, for Cribbs, the Browns are the judge and jury that will decide his fate. Since it's common practice to re-negotiate contracts in the NFL, it's only fair that the Browns take another look at the contract and sweeten the deal.
Heck, he's the only player on the roster fans would pay to see play.