Report: Browns nearly acquired Harbaugh from 49ers via trade

Report: Browns nearly acquired Harbaugh from 49ers via trade
February 21, 2014, 1:30 pm
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Reports indicate the 49ers nearly traded Jim Harbaugh for draft picks. (USATSI)

Programming note: 49ers Insider Matt Maiocco is on the ground in Indianapolis to cover the NFL Combine. Check back for his coverage all weekend and get the full report on SportsNet Central every night at 6 and 10:30 p.m.

INDIANAPOLIS -- Team CEO Jed York strongly denied a Pro Football Talk report Friday afternoon that the 49ers nearly traded coach Jim Harbaugh to the Cleveland Browns last month for draft picks.

York, responding on Twitter to the PFT report, wrote: "is this on the record? Report isn't true."

PFT reported a deal was in place between the teams, but Harbaugh ultimately decided not to leave the 49ers.

The Browns hired former Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine as head coach on Jan. 23, four days after the 49ers' season ended with a 23-17 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship.

On Feb. 11, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam fired general manager Mike Lombardi, who is close to Harbaugh, and president Joe Banner.

Harbaugh's long-term future with the 49ers remains uncertain as the sides have not come together on a contract extension. The sides did not reach a new deal last offseason during contract talks after the 49ers lost to the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII.

The sides were believed to enter into contract talks again this offseason. One source said the 49ers are not expected to pay Harbaugh like a Super Bowl-winning coach if he has not won a Super Bowl.

A year ago, the 49ers gave Harbaugh permission to seek endorsement deals with team sponsors to make up some of the money he sought in a contract extension. Harbaugh collected an estimated $1 million above his five-year, $25 million contract, a source previously told CSNBayArea.com.

[RELATED: Harbaugh trade would have provided decades of talk]

The 49ers are believed to be offering less in guaranteed money on a short-term deal with Harbaugh's pay reaching the upper echelon of salaries among NFL coaches via incentives if the 49ers win a Super Bowl.

The dialogue about the long-term future of Harbaugh with the 49ers took an interesting twist on Friday with the PFT report that the 49ers nearly traded Harbaugh to the Browns for multiple draft picks.

The NFL’s Anti-Tampering Policy states: “Except for head coaches and high-level club employees (club presidents, general managers, and persons with equivalent responsibility and authority), clubs are not permitted to exchange draft choices or cash for the release of individuals who are under contract to another organization.”

[RELATED: Browns CEO, GM leaving team in stunning shakeup]

The Cleveland Browns released a statement in response to the report:

"The team conducted an extensive coaching search, and explored several options. That search produced an outstanding head coach in Mike Pettine and we're excited about his future with the club."

League sources have told CSNBayArea.com in the past that 49ers defensive line coach Jim Tomsula would likely be the team’s next coach if Harbaugh were to leave.