Injured defensive back signs one-year deal in hopes of renewing comeback
CLEVELAND -- Cleveland Browns defensive back Gary Baxter, determined to become the first NFL player to make it back from two torn patellar tendons, signed a one-year free agent contract with Cleveland on Thursday.
Baxter's amazing comeback fell a little short last season. He defied doctors' predictions his career was over by returning to the practice field in July. However, he never regained the strength in his knees, which he injured while defending a pass against Denver in 2006.
The Browns finally placed him on injured reserve on Oct. 23, one day before the one-year anniversary of his knee operations and also the same date in which he underwent surgery to repair a torn chest muscle in 2005, an injury that sidelined him for 11 games.
Baxter has played in just eight games with the Browns, who signed him to a six-year, $30 million free agent deal in March 2005. The club restructured his contract last year, which made him a free agent at the end of the 2007 season.
"This is very important for me to sign a one-year deal here and to finish something I started," the 29-year-old Baxter said. "This has been a long process but right now everything is going well and I'm going to continue my quest to make history."
Baxter has always played cornerback, but has lost speed because of the injury and knows the only way he'll play again is as a safety.
"Both (GM) Phil Savage and (coach) Romeo Crennel brought me back and that shows a lot of loyalty and respect on the Browns' behalf," Baxter said. "They know how hard I've been working. I'm running and feeling good. I'm putting in everything I've got. Things are looking very positive."
Savage worked with Baxter when both were with the Baltimore Ravens, and knows the former second-round pick will do all he can to play again.
"Gary has shown great determination in his attempt to come back and we feel this contract will give him the opportunity to do just that here in Cleveland," Savage said. "We look forward to having him at close to 100 percent by training camp."
The Browns also signed fullback Charles Ali. The 6-foot-2, 265-pounder earned a roster spot last season as an undrafted rookie free agent. He played in 13 games on special teams.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
MORE NFL HEADLINES
- Falcons WR Jones to play against Saints
- Sources: QB Rivers playing with bulging disk
- Shanahan: RG III, Cutler can be franchise QBs
- Sources: Stanford's Shaw plans to shun NFL
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
2008 FREE AGENCY
NFL teams began shopping for free agents on Feb. 29, with approximately 320 players available. Randy Moss (right), one of the top free agents available, re-signed with the Pats.
• Free-agent tracker
Commentary/Features• Paolantonio: Raiders wasting cash on Hall
• Clayton: Raiders immersed in spending spree
• Yasinskas: Bucs spending wisely
• Third And Short: Free-agent analysis
• Clayton: Best remaining players
• Clayton: Top 10 free-agent gambles
• Yasinskas: Saints rolling dice on Vilma, Morgan
• Sando: Role players cashing in
• Yasinskas: Jets improved, but QB remains issue
• Yasinskas: Browns focused on winning
• Clayton: Moss-Patriots deal meant to be
• Clayton: Winners and losers
• Chadiha: Reese sets the standard for rookie GMs
• Yasinskas: Five aggressive teams in the market
• Pasquarelli: Big payoffs await less-heralded FAs
• Clayton: It's better to keep your own guys
• Research: Top 10 free agents of all time
• Yasinskas: Redskins to try new approach
• Joyner: Evaluating four big names
• Chadiha: Dealing with the franchise tag
• Panthers continue O-line makeover, sign Brown
• Browns help LB depth, sign Orr to 1-year contract March 20
• Pats agree to deal with CB Bryant
• Roundup: Rams re-sign Romberg March 19
• Packers agree with LB Chillar
• Bengals' Andrews signs franchise tender
• Punter Turk re-signs with Texans
• Colts keep defensive end Thomas with new deal