Free agent DE picks Denver over three teams

Free agent DE Courtney Brown has reached a contract agreement in principle with the Broncos.

Updated: March 29, 2005, 12:56 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Free agent defensive end Courtney Brown, sought avidly by four teams despite a career marred by injuries and a glaring lack of production, has reached a contract agreement in principle with the Denver Broncos.

Financial details of the one-year deal with options to increase to increase it to five, which is expected to be signed later this week, were not immediately available.

Courtney Brown
Brown
Released by the Cleveland Browns on March 14, the five-year veteran chose the Broncos' offer over proposals from Washington, Jacksonville and Seattle. The Browns had also indicated an interest in re-signing the former Penn State star to a deal more palatable than the $8 million he was owed under his original contract. That included a roster bonus of $2.5 million and base salary of $5.5 million for 2005.

It is believed Brown's decision came down to Denver and Washington. All of the contract proposals were reportedly in the same financial range, and laden with incentives, with the Broncos perhaps gaining a modest edge with a slightly superior bonus package.

Brown's agent, Marvin Demoff told the Gazette of Colorado Springs: "I think (Denver) had everything he was looking for. If he had a list of 10 things, they hit on all 10."

With the Broncos, who had put their pursuit of other free agent defensive linemen on hold while they awaited Brown's decision, he will be reunited with Andre Patterson, his position coach in Cleveland the past two seasons. Patterson has been very outspoken in his support of Brown, and publicly defended him against detractors who have pointed out the poor numbers he has posted in a star-crossed NFL tenure.

Denver will incorporate some 3-4 fronts into its defense this season and feels that Brown has the hybrid-type skills to be productive in that scheme.

But in five seasons, Brown has only 17 sacks and has never demonstrated the kind of upfield explosiveness Cleveland saw in him when it made him the first overall choice in the 2000 draft. Cleveland paid him approximately $27 million for five years and Brown missed 33 games with knee, ankle, neck, biceps and foot injuries.

Brown, 27, finished each of the last four seasons on injured reserve. He continues to rehabilitate from what is known as a Lis Franc sprain to his left foot, an injury from which only a few players have recovered and enjoyed productive careers.

Like the other teams with which he visited, the Broncos believe Brown will fully recover from the foot injury that limited him to just two games last season and perhaps reach the kind of productivity that has eluded him to this point in his career.

The Broncos lost their top pass-rusher, Reggie Hayward, to the Jacksonville Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent earlier this month. Denver has auditioned a number of defensive linemen and, in addition to Brown, demonstrated interest in end Marques Douglas of Baltimore, and tackles Ed Jasper of Atlanta and Cincinnati's Tony Williams. Even with the acquisition of Brown, the Broncos will almost certainly sign at least one more veteran defensive lineman.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here Insider.