Dilfer, Browns make long-term commitment
Dilfer, acquired in a weekend trade from the Seattle Seahawks, signed a four-year contract Tuesday with Cleveland, taking over a position the Browns haven't gotten right since coming back to the NFL in 1999.
Dilfer, who turns 33 Sunday, brings a Super Bowl ring and considerable experience to Cleveland after enduring personal and professional hardships during his career.
"I feel like I've got a lot of football left,'' he said. "I love this game. I love the travel. I love the way Mondays feel after a win or a loss. I love the pressure. There's not a guy who loves football more than I do. I feel like my best football is ahead of me.''
Dilfer came to the Browns with one year left on his contract at $1.2 million. The Browns, though, decided to invest more time into Dilfer, seeing him as not only a proven veteran, but as someone who can win games and tutor young quarterbacks Luke McCown and Josh Harris.
"He's a winner and he's a tremendous man,'' said Browns general manager Phil Savage. "You look at the mountaintop highs and valley lows he has struggled with. But through his career he's figured out what it takes to win in the NFL.''
Financial terms of the deal were not immediately available.
Savage and Dilfer have been reunited in Cleveland. They were together in Baltimore in 2000, winning a Super Bowl with the Ravens.
But at the time when his future looked brightest, Dilfer was not re-signed by Baltimore and went to Seattle as a free agent in 2001. He took over for Matt Hasselbeck, went 4-0 as a starter and signed a four-year deal.
In 2003, a torn Achilles' tendon ended his season. A few months later, he was dealt a greater blow.
Dilfer's 5-year-old son, Trevin, died of a heart infection after spending 40 days in a coma.
That loss gave Dilfer an even greater appreciation of what he had and a larger perspective on life.
"I've learned some very hard life lessons,'' he said, his eyes filled with tears as he talked about his son. "I'm so much more sensitive to other people. I used to be a zero on the mercy meter.''
Meanwhile, Dilfer could be the best protected QB the Browns have had since 1999.
On Tuesday, the club signed former Tampa Bay guard Cosey Coleman to a two-year, $3 million contract.
Coleman, a solid four-year starter with the Buccaneers, is the second free agent guard signed by the Browns, whose offensive line has been a chronic problem. Last week, the club signed former New England Patriots guard Joe Andruzzi to a four-year $9 million deal.
The 6-foot-4, 322-pound Coleman visited the Green Bay Packers on Monday. He resumed talks with the Browns late that night and his agent, Pat Dye Jr., was able to get a deal done with Cleveland.
"We like his versatility at guard,'' Browns coach Romeo Crennel said. "The fact that he has been a starter in the NFL and been to a Super Bowl is the type of experience and durability we are looking for.''
Coleman, 26, also visited the Browns as an unrestricted free agent last year but decided to re-sign with Tampa Bay for one season. He played every snap at right guard for the Bucs in 2004 and has started 63 of 64 games the past three seasons.
Crennel made the interior of his offensive line the team's No. 1 priority this offseason, and Andruzzi and Coleman are a substantial upgrade over the parade of guards the club has shuttled in and out the past few seasons.
The Browns also re-signed defensive back Lewis Sanders.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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