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NFL Indsider - Mark Maske

Broncos Hope Brown Turns from Bust to Star

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 29, 2005; 10:55 AM

The Denver Broncos are collecting failed former Cleveland Browns' first-round draft picks for their defensive line, reaching a contract agreement with end Courtney Brown on Monday on the heels of trading for tackle Gerard Warren.

The furor with which several teams pursued Brown after he was released by Cleveland two weeks ago masked the fact that he has been an almost complete bust since being the top overall selection in the 2000 draft out of Penn State.

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He played in 47 games and had 17 sacks in five seasons with the Browns -- not exactly what they had in mind when they passed over his former Nittany Lions teammate, linebacker LaVar Arrington, to draft him. He hasn't played in 16 games in a season since he was a rookie. He never has had more than six sacks in a season. And he's coming off yet another serious injury. He had his 2004 season ended after only two games by a Lisfranc injury -- an injury to the bones and ligaments that join the mid-foot and forefoot that's named for Jacques Lisfranc, the doctor in Napoleon's army who first described it.

But he's only 27, and Browns officials liked him personally even though they were greatly disappointed by his production. Cleveland even attempted to re-sign him to a cheaper contract after releasing him. Brown agreed to an incentive-laden, one-year contract with the Broncos that contains option years to stretch the deal as long as five seasons.

Denver's deal with Brown comes a month after the Broncos agreed to trade a fourth-round draft pick in April to Cleveland for Warren, the third overall selection in the 2001 draft by the Browns out of the University of Florida.

Warren managed to stay healthy, playing in 60 games in four seasons in Cleveland, and even produced 16-1/2 sacks, a more-than-respectable total for a defensive tackle. But he never was the dominant defender that the Browns thought he'd be, and new coach Romeo Crennel and new general manager Phil Savage quickly parted with him. He's only 26, though, and the Broncos hope that a fresh start in a new organization and in a new town does him some good.

Denver probably will sign one more defensive linemen from among the free agents it has been pursuing, including end Marques Douglas and tackles Tony Williams and Ed Jasper. The Broncos have expressed a willingness to trade defensive end Trevor Pryce, who averaged nearly 10 sacks per season between 1998 and 2003 but missed most of last season after undergoing back surgery.

Falcons Re-Sign Detmer

Atlanta re-signed veteran quarterback Ty Detmer to a one-year, minimum-salary contract. He was an unrestricted free agent. Detmer was the Falcons' third-string quarterback last season, behind starter Michael Vick and rookie backup Matt Schaub. . . .

Miami re-signed defensive tackle Dario Romero, a restricted free agent. . . . San Diego re-signed tight end Justin Peelle, a restricted free agent. . . .

Cleveland released guard Kelvin Garmon, who had been made expendable by the additions of free-agent guards Joe Andruzzi and Cosey Coleman. . . . Cincinnati released linebacker LaDairis Jackson. . . .

The Broncos plan to allow cornerback Champ Bailey to practice at wide receiver this offseason, perhaps in preparation for having a role in the club's offense next season Bailey, obtained in a trade with the Washington Redskins for tailback Clinton Portis last year, was a standout on offense as well as on defense in college at Georgia, and lobbied -- mostly unsuccessfully -- to get playing time at wideout throughout his tenure in Washington. . . .

The NFL's team owners voted last week at their meetings in Maui to shut down the regional television networks started by the Falcons and Dallas Cowboys. The league apparently doesn't want individual teams creating competition for its NFL Network.

Leonard Little Trial Begins

Jury selection began Monday in St. Louis County Circuit Court in the drunk-driving trial of Rams defensive end Leonard Little.

He was charged with speeding and driving under the influence of alcohol after being arrested in a St. Louis suburb last April. According to the police, he failed field sobriety tests and refused to take a breathalyzer test after being pulled over for going 78 mph in a 55-mph zone.

Little faces up to four years in prison if convicted as a persistent offender of felony drunk driving under a Missouri law enacted in 2001. The law enables prosecutors to charge a person accused of drunk driving with a felony as a persistent offender if the driver has a previous manslaughter conviction. Little was sentenced to 90 days in jail, four years of probation and 1,000 hours of community service after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter in an October 1998 accident in downtown St. Louis that killed a woman, Susan Gutweiler. Little admitted to being drunk when he drove his vehicle through a red light and ran into Gutweiler's car.

The judge in this case, Emmett M. O'Brien, ruled that prosecutor Mark Bishop cannot mention the Gutweiler case during this trial, however. The judge reportedly also rejected requests by Court TV and local television stations to allow cameras into the courtroom during the trial.

Little, 30, was suspended for the first half of the 1999 season by the NFL and could face further discipline by the league after this case is resolved. The trial probably will conclude on Friday.

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