Cowboys deactivated Ekuban vs. Philly

Updated: March 11, 2004, 1:26 AM ET
Associated Press

CLEVELAND -- Free agent defensive end Ebenezer Ekuban agreed to a contract Wednesday with the Cleveland Browns, the Associated Press has learned.

Ekuban, a first-round draft pick of Dallas in 1999, will get a three-year deal from the Browns, said a league source, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The Browns did not return a phone message seeking comment.

Cleveland also signed fullback Terrelle Smith, a punishing blocker who spent the past three seasons opening holes for Deuce McAllister in New Orleans, to a four-year, $4.4 million contract.

Smith's agent, Leigh Steinberg, said the deal includes a $1.1 million signing bonus.

Cleveland didn't have a true fullback for much of last season, relying on tight ends to block for its backs in running situations. Smith will handle those duties now.

"He's a unique weapon," Steinberg said. "He's as devastating a blocker as there is in the NFL and he's excited about the chance to block for William Green and others in Cleveland."

The 6-foot, 246-pound Smith also made a free-agent visit to Buffalo.

The 27-year-old Ekuban didn't live up to expectations during five seasons with the Cowboys. He will give the Browns added depth on their defensive line and an insurance policy in case Courtney Brown continues to be slowed by injuries.

Brown had surgery on his right knee last month, and had microfracture surgery on his left knee last year.

Ekuban is familiar with the Browns' system. He played for Cleveland defensive coordinator Dave Campo and line coach Andre Patterson while he was with the Cowboys.

Ekuban started 15 games last season, getting three sacks. Billed as a speed rusher when he came into the league, Ekuban has just 13 sacks in five years.

In 2002, he was one of just five starting defensive ends in the NFL with one or no sacks.

The 6-foot-3 265-pounder underachieved for Cowboys coach Bill Parcells last season, and was deactivated for a Dec. 7 game against Philadelphia.

The benching was a clear sign Ekuban wasn't in Dallas' plans for 2004. He didn't know he wasn't playing against the Eagles until shortly before kickoff, and he later said the situation was "handled in a very classless manner."

After playing all 16 games as a rookie in 1999, Ekuban led the Cowboys with 6 sacks in 2000 despite playing primarily as a reserve and missing four games with a toe injury.

Ekuban started the 2001 opener, but played only in the first half against Tampa Bay before a herniated disc in his back required surgery and forced him to miss the rest of the year.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press