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Bentley, Jurevicius sign to join home-town team


Published: Sat, March 11, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.


The Browns didn't waste any time spending some of their free agency money.
CLEVELAND (AP) -- LeCharles Bentley and Joe Jurevicius are coming home to play for the Browns.
The high-prized free agent center and the veteran wide receiver, who both grew up in Cleveland rooting for the city's beleaguered NFL team, signed Saturday with the Browns, who didn't waste any time spending some of the nearly $25 million they have for free agency.
"I can die happy now," said Bentley, who wore a Browns jersey under his sports coat. "This has been my dream."
Bentley, who played the past four seasons for New Orleans, brings toughness, size and experience to the Browns' offensive line, which has been both inept and ignored by the team in recent years.
His six-year deal is reportedly worth $36 million and includes $12.5 million in guarantees.
Three Super Bowls
Jurevicius, who got a four-year deal, has played in three Super Bowls, including last season's for the Seattle Seahawks. The 31-year-old gives the Browns a dependable receiver to complement Braylon Edwards.
"This is where it all started for me," said Jurevicius. "I had opportunities to go to a couple different places. First and foremost, I wanted to become a Cleveland Brown, put on the orange helmet, play in front of Lake Erie and enjoy the feelings.
"This is going to add years to my career because of excitement that comes along with it."
In addition, the Browns signed free agent left tackle Kevin Shaffer, who will replace L.J. Shelton as a starter.
Shelton, who played one season with the Browns after signing a one-year deal in June, became a free agent when he couldn't reach agreement with the club on an extension this winter. When Shelton's return became unlikely, the Browns turned their attention to available tackles on the market and quickly snatched Shaffer.
Headed in right direction
Signing Bentley, a two-time Pro Bowl player regarded as one of the premier unrestricted free agents, is another sign the Browns, who went 6-10 last season, are headed in the right direction under general manager Phil Savage and coach Romeo Crennel.
The Browns haven't been able to compete with the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers, and need more players of Bentley's caliber to close the gap.
Bentley can't wait to be a part of the Browns-Steelers rivalry.
"That's football," he said. "That's what it's all about. I want to be in those games. I can't wait to come out of the tunnel at Cleveland Stadium. I'm excited, and I cant wait to be part of that tradition and leave my own legacy."
Bentley's arrival means the Browns will have to move or release injury-prone center Jeff Faine. A former first-round pick, Faine has played well in spurts but has finished the past three years on injured reserve. It wouldn't make sense for the Browns to keep Faine as a high-priced backup.
Will bolster offense
Bentley, who played at Ohio State, will bring immediate help to Cleveland's running game and bolster an offense that was last in the league in scoring last season. The 315-pounder is a powerful blocker, who can push the pile up front and he's speedy enough to get outside and pick off a linebacker or cornerback.
The 26-year-old Bentley was selected in the second round of the 2002 draft by New Orleans. He began his career as a guard before moving to center.
Shaffer, also 26, started all 16 games for the Atlanta Falcons last season. He was drafted in the seventh round in 2002.
Jurevicius, who played at Lake Catholic High, has 233 career receptions for 3,010 yards and 30 touchdowns. He also played on Super Bowl teams with the New York Giants and Tampa Bay.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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