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Bentley signs with the Browns....(unconfirmed)

Tom [Giants fan]

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Browns agree with offensive linemen Bentley, Shaffer


By Len Pasquarelli


With money to spend and holes to fill, the Cleveland Browns struck quickly in free agency Saturday, reaching agreements with a pair of high-profile unrestricted free agents who will dramatically alter the landscape of the team's offensive line unit.

LeCharles Bentley">



The Browns have signed center LeCharles Bentley of New Orleans, the top-ranked player overall in ESPN.com's ratings of unrestricted free agents. The team also reached an agreement in principle with Atlanta Falcons left offensive tackle Kevin Shaffer, ESPN.com's 26th-rated free agent.

Financial details of the contracts were not yet available. While some details remain to be worked out on Shaffer's contract, it will be a seven-year deal worth more than $5 million annually.

Cleveland officials had suggested as the free agency signing period approached that they would be very active, and early on, in addressing key needs. The Browns had about $20 million in salary cap room even before the extension to the collective bargaining agreement added $7.5 million more per team. General manager Phil Savage and coach Romeo Crennel moved quickly in 2004 at the outset of free agency, and their Saturday forays will aid an offense that statistically ranked No. 26 in the league in 2005.

Landing the highly regarded Bentley is a huge acquisition for the Browns, who wanted more bulk and power on the interior of their offensive line. The signing represents a homecoming for Bentley, who is a Cleveland native, attended that city's St. Ignatius High School, and is a longtime Browns fan.

It had been rumored for about two weeks that Bentley would sign with Philadelphia once the free agent market opened for business, but those reports proved erroneous.

Bentley, 26, was the Saints' second-round pick in the 2002 draft. He began his career at guard and then moved to center in 2004. He earned one Pro Bowl berth at each position and scouts leaguwide agree that his best football is still ahead of him. The former Ohio State standout is a mauler, the sort of road-grader blocker the Browns need. At 315 pounds, he can take on the NFL's biggest nose tackle and has the power to drive defenders off the line of scrimmage.

In four seasons with the Saints, he played in 57 games, all as a starter.

The intention of the Browns at left tackle was to re-sign L.J. Shelton, who started all 16 games in 2005, while playing on a one-year deal. But when they could not land an extension with Shelton, the Browns quickly turned to Shaffer, a four-year veteran.

Although he struggled against speed-rushers at times in 2005, Shaffer is an emerging pass protector, as former seventh-round choice who made himself a solid player through hard work. The former Tulsa star moved into the Falcons' starting lineup midway through the 2003 season. A very good technician, and a player who figures to keep improving, Shaffer has played in 53 games and started 39 of them.

ESPN.com's Michael Smith contributed to this report.

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And from KFFL.com

Browns | Team signs Bentley

Sat, 11 Mar 2006 09:55:37 -0800

Len Pasquarelli, of ESPN.com, reports the Cleveland Browns have agreed on a contract with free agent C LeCharles Bentley. Terms of the contract are not yet known.

Dang those are two solid signs for the Browns. Droughns should be even better next year with those two blocking for him.

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