Former Browns wide receiver and three-time Pro Bowl kick returner Josh Cribbs signed a one-year contract with the Oakland Raiders, J.R. Rickert, one of Cribbs’ agents, announced Wednesday via Twitter.
So, as expected, Cribbs has officially moved on after spending the past eight seasons with the Browns. Financial terms of the deal were not immediately disclosed.
“I am blessed to have the opportunity to prove myself yet again!” Cribbs wrote on Twitter. “Fresh start, new team, new chip on my shoulder!!!! Love [you] Cleveland, but now it’s ... 2013 Raider Nation.”
The Browns signed Cribbs, a former Kent State University quarterback, as an undrafted free agent in 2005. He became a special-teams force as a return man and coverage ace.
Cribbs’ play-making ability and toughness helped him become a fan favorite along with kicker Phil Dawson, who signed with the San Francisco 49ers in March.
Cribbs, who will turn 30 on June 9, ranked sixth among punt returners (12 average) and tied for fourth among kick returners (27.4 average) last season. He was named an alternate to the Pro Bowl and played in his third career all-star game in January.
But Browns owner Jimmy Haslam indicated in March at the NFL owners meeting that Cribbs’ age was a deciding factor in the new regime’s choice not to re-sign him. Cribbs became an unrestricted free agent in March.
“We’re building, right?” Haslam said. “So I think you have to look at where people are in their career and who fits best and who doesn’t. Why did we like [free-agent acquisitions] Paul [Kruger] and Desmond [Bryant] so much? Not only are they good players, how old are they? Twenty-six, 27, right?”
During a speaking engagement Monday with the Pro Football Hall of Fame Luncheon Club, Browns General Manager Mike Lombardi said the situation with Cribbs needed to “be perfect for both parties” for him to return to Cleveland.
“His contract expired,” Lombardi said. “I think we have a new coaching staff. Josh obviously needs to have a defined role in what he wants to do moving forward. I think he’s testing the market to see what his value will be.”
A week before the owners meeting, Cribbs bid farewell to Browns fans by posting photographs, captions and the following comment on Instagram: “It’s been a blessing to be in Cleveland, wishing the best to the city and the team. If I could stay, I would.”
Cribbs visited the Arizona Cardinals in March, but a deal was not struck because he had offseason knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus. He recently visited the Raiders, New York Jets, New York Giants and Detroit Lions before signing with Oakland.
The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Cribbs and Leon Washington, who signed with the New England Patriots this offseason, are tied for the most kickoff returns for touchdowns — eight — in NFL history. Cribbs was named the kick returner on the NFL’s all-decade team for the 2000s.
Cribbs has compiled 12,169 career kick and punt return yards. He’s just the sixth player in NFL history to eclipse the 12,000-yard plateau. He has 10,015 career kickoff return yards, the most any player has tallied with the same team in NFL history and fifth-highest total overall.
Browns nose tackle Phil Taylor is raising money for victims of the April 17 fertilizer-plant explosion in Texas by selling T-shirts online. The blast killed at least 14 people, injured about 200 more and damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes.
“This is a big week for the #WeAreWestTX campaign and I need your HELP spreading the word so we can hit our goal of $100,000 for the families,” Taylor tweeted Monday.
The green shirts read, “We are West TX,” in gold text and feature a cartoon teddy bear. Taylor played college football for the Baylor Bears, whose colors are green and gold.
The shirts can be purchased for $25 at aamanagementgroup.com/shop.
The website includes a photo of Taylor, quarterback Brandon Weeden, wide receivers Josh Gordon and Greg Little, cornerback Joe Haden and running back Chris Ogbonnaya wearing the shirts.
The Browns will open their third and final organized team activity practice of the week to the media at 11:30 a.m. today.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.