By MARK KAY CABOT
PLAIN DEALER REPORTER
TUESDAY AUGUST 1, 1995
The Browns yesterday signed No.1 pick Craig Powell to a four year deal worth $3.26 million and waived suspended defensive tackle Bill Johnson to make room for Powell under the salary cap.
The Browns might re-sign Johnson today to the league minimum of $178,000, if he clears waivers. Previously, his 1995 salary was $714,000. Johnson was under suspension for two DUI convictions in less than a year and for punching teammate Gerald Dixon in a bar fight June 10.
He was seen at the Browns facility last night with three members of the organization.
"We might re-sign him and we might not," Browns President Art Modell said. "I believe in giving people second chances, but we've already given Bill a lot of chances. We'll have to see what the coaches want to do. I want to give him a chance to go straight, but I don't want to screw up the season."
Modell said the Browns tried to trade Johnson, a four-year veteran, to no avail. "Based on that, maybe he'll clear waivers," said Modell. Johnson also faces possible suspension from the league for an unspecified number of games.
Meanwhile, Powell's 18-day holdout might have hurt him on the field, but it did wonders for his bank account. The 30th pick in the first round out of Ohio State, Powell received a four-year deal that's better than the two players drafted ahead of him, according to a source from the NFL Player's Association.
Powell received a $610,000 signing bonus and a total package worth $3,263,750 for an average of $815,940 a year, according to the NFLPA source. He received guaranteed money totaling $1.26 million.
The breakdown of his contract is as follows: $482,500 for 1995; $603,125 for 1996 with $300,000 guaranteed; $723,750 for 1997 with $350,000 guaranteed and $844,375 for 1998, with $350,000 in up-front roster and workout bonuses to be paid on March 1 of that year.
"We got a great deal," said Powell, who practiced with the team for the first time yesterday. "I wish I was here earlier, but I got a great deal and that's what did it."
Powell's deal exceeds that of No.28 pick Derrick Brooks, linebacker from Tampa Bay, and No.29 Black Brockermeyer, an offensive tackle drafted by Carolina. Brooks received a four-year deal worth $3.25 million, including a $1 million signing bonus. Brookermeyer received a four year deal worth $3.15 million, including a $1.05 million signing bonus.
Powell received a record 65 percent increase in average salary over No.31 offensive tackle Trezelle Jenkins of Kansas City, the largest first-round sequential increaes ever.
Coach Bill Belichick had a long talk with Powell's agent, Neil Cornrich, before the trip to Platteville, Wis., last week to try to get Powell in.
"I think this was pretty much the last stop for him," said Belichick. "If he hadn't gotten in here, for the start of this week, the he probably wonldn't have been able to play in the Giants game [Sunday]. And I don't know how much time ready in the other preseason games because we would have had so many other things to do.
"I tried to get on some common ground [with Cornrich]. It seemed like there was a point in the contract when things really started movoing along much more positively than in the past, so for us, I think it was a little bit of a pressure point that he get in here by [yesterday or today] at the lastest."
Powell will compete for the starting job at weakside linebacker with Mike Coldwell and Travis Hill. "I think I can still compete for the starting job," he said. "It will be fierce. Those guys are great players."
Powell will be tutored morning, noon and night by linebackers coach Chuck Bresnahan.