Isaiah Crowell-Drew Rosenhaus partnership is nothing to fear

NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 16: Isaiah Crowell
NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 16: Isaiah Crowell /

Cleveland Browns running back Isaiah Crowell has a new agent as he seeks a new deal, but that is not something that fans should worry about.

Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson arrived in town last year with a reputation for having a run-first attitude on offense.

The Browns lived up to that reputation, sort of, during the season as they finished the year averaging 4.9 yards per carry, the second-best mark in the league and the team’s best per-carry average in 50 years.

The only problem was that the Browns were unwilling, or unable, to run the ball enough to make a difference as they finished with just 21.9 rushes per game, tied for the fewest in the NFL.

Fast forward a year and the situation, at least in theory, has improved. The Browns strengthened the offensive line with the additions of J.C. Tretter and Kevin Zeitler in free agency, and added several pieces to the defensive in the 2017 NFL Draft, most notably No. 1 overall selection Myles Garrett.

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Those are important pieces to the puzzle, but the main piece is running back Isaiah Crowell, who is coming off the best season of his three-year professional career. Last season, Crowell led the Browns in rushing with 952 yards, in rushing touchdowns with seven, and averaged 4.8 yards per carry.

Crowell was also an undrafted free agent after the season and was hoping to get paid. But unable to work out a new longterm deal, Crowell ended up signing a one-year tender offer worth just a tick more than $2.7 million.

As the Browns prepare for the opening of training camp later this week, Crowell dropped a bit of a bomb on Sunday when the news broke that he had signed with “super agent” Drew Rosenhaus to work on his new contract.

That sent a portion of Browns Twitter into a frenzy as they have concluded that the move means that Crowell is a lock to leave the Browns following the upcoming season. That is a possibility, especially if Crowell has a big season this fall, but that may not have much to do with Rosenhaus.

Of all the positions on the field, running back has become one that, with a few exceptions, smart teams don’t invest major money. And why is that? Because the numbers show that once a running back hits the age of 26, it is almost always down hill from there.

According to ESPN’s Kevin Seifert, the harsh truth is that:

"Tailbacks who have played at least four seasons and received at least 75 attempts in each season peak at age 26 on average. By age 29, their production has dropped by 26 percent, and by 41 percent at age 32. NFL teams pay free agents for projected production, not past achievement. Generally speaking, teams have no incentive to spend real money on running backs when they can draft players who are fresher and more likely to be productive."

Crowell just turned 24 in January, so he should at least two solid years in him before the expected decline sets in. Knowing that, how willing should the Browns be to invest in Crowell after the season and, more importantly, how much money will it take?

We saw a similar situation play out this past offseason as Rosenhaus completely misread the market for wide receiver Terrelle Pryor, who ultimately signed a contract with the Washington Redskins that was worst than what the Browns were offering. (A fact that apparently needs repeating for those who haven’t accepted it yet.)

Executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown showed that the was not about to be played in that negotiation by a “super agent” like Rosenhaus, and it is not hard to see Crowell embark on a similar journey.

There is likely a dollar amount and a contract length that is suitable for both sides. But if Crowell decides that he doesn’t want to work with the only team willing to sign him as an undrafted free agent and for a coach that has an offense set up for him to succeed (much like Pryor did last spring), then this fall could very well be the last time we see Crowell in Orange and Brown.

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If that scenario comes to pass it will be unfortunate, as it would be nice to see Crowell stay as a core member of the offense. But because of the position he plays, the decision may have already been made for him and the Browns, regardless of who Crowell has as his agent.