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Brown Picks The Broncos Over Redskins

By Nunyo Demasio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 29, 2005; Page D01

Courtney Brown, the injury-prone defensive end who was the top pick in the 2000 draft, yesterday chose the Denver Broncos over the Washington Redskins, concluding a protracted courtship that had involved several teams, according to sources familiar with his decision.

Brown, a 6-foot-4, 290-pound free agent, had kept the Redskins and Broncos in suspense since he was released by the Cleveland Browns on March 14, twice postponing his decision.

Often-injured defensive end Courtney Brown, the top pick in 2000 draft, was released by Cleveland on March 14. (Tony Dejak -- AP)

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Since Friday, Brown had alternated between teams, sources said, after final telephone pitches from Denver Coach Mike Shanahan and Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs. Brown made his final decision late Sunday night, sources said.

Brown's agent, Marvin Demoff, did not return calls yesterday. Gibbs was unavailable to comment.

None of Brown's suitors, which included the Jacksonville Jaguars, changed their original offers: According to a source, Washington's offer was a one-year deal with virtually no incentives tied to health. Denver's offer was only slightly better than Washington's. It was a one-year deal with options to reach five years, with a similar annual salary but with incentives. But sources said that Brown declined the most lucrative offer, from the Jaguars, who are roughly $13 million under the cap. The Seattle Seahawks, the last team Brown visited, made no offer.

Denver appears to have had the edge largely because of defensive line coach Andre Patterson, who coached Brown in 2003 and 2004 in Cleveland. Although Brown has missed 33 games in his five-year NFL career, Patterson once called him the toughest defensive end he had ever coached. Their relationship, sources said, trumped Washington's main appeal for Brown: playing for assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams and de facto defensive line coach Greg Blache.

Washington played up its ties to Brown: Linebacker LaVar Arrington played at Penn State with him from 1996 to 1999 and the two remain close. Washington recently signed Pierson Prioleau, a reserve safety and special-teams player who is Brown's second cousin. Over the past several days, Arrington and Prioleau tried to convince Brown to come to Washington. Defensive tackle Brandon Noble, a college teammate in 1996, also did his part. Foge Fazio, a Redskins defensive consultant, was Cleveland's defensive coordinator in 2001 and 2002. And, in yet another link, Brown's agent also represents Williams.

But Brown called the Redskins yesterday and told Blache, Gibbs and owner Daniel Snyder of his decision. According to a source, when Gibbs asked Brown why he didn't choose Washington, the defensive end responded generally about his family being more comfortable in Denver.

Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey, traded by Washington to Denver before the 2004 season, spoke to Brown during the process. According to a source with knowledge of the conversation, Bailey only talked up Denver and didn't badmouth Washington. A source said that Bailey said he heard good things about Washington's defensive staff, but pointed out that he didn't play under it. Quarterback Jake Plummer and safety John Lynch also talked with Brown.

Brown was leaning toward Denver, one source said, before visiting Redskins Park on March 17. He had visited Denver on March 15, but the day before -- only hours after Brown's release -- Gibbs and Blache had flown to Cleveland to have dinner with Brown and his wife, Candace.

On the weekend of March 19, Brown was expected to choose between the Broncos and Redskins, and to cancel his other visits. Instead, Brown visited Jacksonville (March 21) and Seattle (March 22). Then, after telling teams that he would make a decision by Thursday, Brown informed them he needed more time.

Brown's decision was the latest free agency setback -- albeit relatively minor -- for Washington, which failed to re-sign linebacker Antonio Pierce (New York Giants) and cornerback Fred Smoot (Minnesota Vikings). One of Washington's goals in the offseason was landing a pass-rush specialist. Last year, the Redskins were tied for fourth in the NFC with 40 sacks, yet most came on blitzes by linebackers and defensive backs.

Redskins Note: The Redskins yesterday re-signed kicker Jeff Chandler, who converted five of six field goals for Washington late last season, filling in for the injured John Hall.

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