Doug Clarke The Chronicle-Telegram. Why do we get the nagging notion that we won't be seeing Holdout Boy, Kellen Winslow Jr., any time soon? When a club offers a player the exact same contract as the player drafted above him - the offer being the highest ever for a player at that position - and the player and his agent(s) ridicule the offer as not being even in the ballpark, you can probably figure you'll see snow in September before you do the whites of that player's eyes. While Winslow flexes in Houston with the band of other Poston Brothers holdouts, the Postons flex their negotiating muscles across a table from Browns coach Butch Davis. Or, at least, one imagines it is Davis doing the haggling, inasmuch as The Man is in charge of everything except spooning out the mashed potatoes at the training table. So if I'm Butch, here's what I do: I make the Postons another offer. The offer is exactly the same as the first offer, except for one small difference. It's shy, say, $500,000. In other words, the contract would call for the Browns to pay Winslow $500,000 less than the first offer would have paid. The Postons, irate, huff and puff and say something like, "You cannot be serious!" Except the Browns are. Serious, that is. Very serious. And I, as Butch, say, "Well, I told you right back at the beginning of these negotiations that we were coming out with our best offer. And we did. But you didn't like that one so I thought, 'What the heck?' maybe they'll like my second-best offer instead. So that's what we did.'" All of this, of course, sends the Postons into a lather. Everyone then pushes their chair back from the negotiating table and makes a beeline for the waiting reporters so they can put their spin on what has just transpired. Meanwhile, back in Houston, Holdout Boy is beginning to flex less and sweat more. Kellen Winslow Jr. begins to bark back into the phone at The Postons. Probably says something like, "It wasn't supposed to go like this, dammit. You told me it wouldn't." The Postons tell Winslow to sit tight. Trust us, they say. And, of course, Junior does. And why not? The Postons are to football players what Scott Boros is to baseball players. They're all top-dollar guys. They accept nothing less. Not even logic or fair-market value. Just top dollar or forget it. Junior Winslow, they say, is a chip off the ol' block: a premier tight end. Can block, can catch, can run, can make the Big Play. A "franchise-type player," is how everyone puts it. The thing is, the franchise player has yet to catch a pass in the pros, which puts him a few caught balls behind, say, his dad, the great Kellen Winslow (or, The One and Only to have played in the NFL), Shannon Sharpe, Tony Gonzalez, Ozzie Newsome, Dave Casper or any other Hall of Fame tight end you'd care to name. Incidentally, the third round of negotiations wouldn't go real smooth, either. Why? Because I . as Master and Commander Butch . drop my next offer by another $500,000. Would put Winslow an even one million under what he would have made had he signed the initial contract. Let Holdout Boy hassle that one out with the Brothers Poston. But Doug, you scream, this would only drive the negotiations further apart and we'd never be able to sign Winslow. And I say, fine 'n dandy. Let Kellen Winslow stare into a mirror in a hotel room in Houston and think about sitting out a season and going through the draft again. Going through it after being inactive for a whole season. See what that does for his market value. Look in the mirror, Kid. Choose wisely. As for the Browns, well, whoever said you start the rebuilding process (and believe you me the Browns are deep in the throes of rebuilding this chaotic mess they've thrown together) with a tight end, anyway? Wait, let me answer that question. You don't. I remember being pretty excited when the Browns drafted Winslow. He is, after all, a stud player. A tight end with great potential in the NFL. He was probably the most talented player on the board when the Browns picked him in the No. 6 spot. This excitement, however - an excitement and expectation I shared with most of you - was based on the assumption that the talented player coming out of college would want to sign a contract and sign it fast so he could get started on his pro career. Catch some balls and have folks using his name in the same sentence with his dad and Shannon Sharpe and Gonzalez and Newsome and Casper. That he would show some eagerness and enthusiasm about being a Cleveland Brown. We always assume that, don't we? That the young player coming out of college would eagerly move his chair closer to the table, pick up the pen with the team logo on it and scribble his name on the dotted line. That he'd then push his chair back, stand up, hitch his pants up and say, "Well, that's that. Now what's the fastest way to the locker room from here?" After that, it's all seashells and balloons. Well, almost. First come the wind sprints, the dreaded grass drills, the blocking sleds and the gosh-awful sound of that damn boat horn. Doing all those things when the temperature and the humidity are both pushing 92. Welcome to the NFL, kid. Here, let me help you up . and maybe getting a polite knee in the groin. That's the life. It's a short one, though. The average pro career is, what . 3.7 years? Even a long career in the NFL, say . 10-12 years or so . is a short one. Guy retires and he's anywhere from 31 to 33 or 34. Guy gets hurt and has to leave the game after seven years and he's all of 28. So what you want to do is to get yourself started on this incredibly short career. You play it hard and you play it fast and you play it for more money than you ever dreamed of - having it all, both the football and the money, before the age of 30. Because just like that, it's over. You wake up one day and you know you can't go through another training camp again. So you retire and you either go into coaching, or the broadcasting booth, or the whiskey or automobile business. Or maybe, like Joe Namath, you don't do much of anything. The only thing for sure is that you are out of the game that you once played for the sheer joy of it and wound up getting paid millions of dollars for playing it. Eventually, I . as Master and Commander Butch . up my offer to this Holdout Boy. I come back to the very first offer I put on the table - but not a penny more. But in the meantime, I let Holdout Boy think about it. Let him think about taking yet another course in whatever it is University of Miami football players take, maybe throw the football around some on the beach while Bikini Girl watches. The way I figure it, Kellen Winslow Jr. needs the Browns more than the Browns need him. If he signs, fine. If not, no biggie. Save the money for next year's first-round pick. Hopefully, it'll be a kid who likes the football part of the business well enough that he doesn't mind actually playing it.
Doug Clarke is a columnist for The Chronicle-Telegram.