Saying he was "coming home," Buffalo Bills all-pro running back Joe Cribbs signed today with the USFL Birmingham Stallions.
Cribbs, a two-time 1,000-yard rusher with the Bills, will play next season in Buffalo, then move to Birmingham for the 1984 spring season.
"I feel like this is really coming home for me," Cribbs said at a news conference. "This really is a great day for me . . . I'm back down in the South where I really belong."
The terms of Cribbs' contract were not revealed, but his agent, Jerry Argovitz, said the contract is among the tops in football.
"It will match the top NFL contracts dollar for dollar," Argovitz said. "They (the Stallions) have paid him more for signing his name on a piece of paper than he's made the last four years in Buffalo."
Cribbs' salary in Buffalo was estimated at $120,000 a year.
Argovitz, who owns the Houston Gamblers, a USFL expansion team, made Cribbs the second player he has taken from the Bills. Earlier in the year, the Gamblers signed University of Miami quarterback Jim Kelly, one of the Bills' two first-round draft choices.
When Argovitz got his expansion team, there was speculation Cribbs would sign with the Gamblers. But at the time, the Stallions said they wanted Cribbs to play in Birmingham and were not interested in trading their USFL territorial rights to him.
"The discussions with Birmingham started when Argovitz got the Houston franchise," said Cribbs, who was the first player the agent represented. "We got word that Birmingham was very interested."
Cribbs is the second NFL all-pro player in less than a week to leave the NFL to play for a USFL team in his home state. Monday, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Cris Collinsworth announced an agreement to play for the Tampa Bay Bandits. He will play the next two seasons in the NFL, then switch to the USFL.
"Future contracts of this nature are not unprecedented in the NFL and we anticipate no problem with Joe Cribbs during the 1983 season," said Bills Coach Kay Stephenson.
Cribbs, a native of Sulligent and former star at Auburn University, sat out three games of the 1982 season, seeking to renegotiate his contract. He was reportedly asking for $1 million.