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Former Patriot rejoins coach


Published: Thu, March 16, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.


Cleveland signed veteran linebacker Willie McGinest to a three-year deal.
BEREA (AP) -- After 12 years in New England, it took Willie McGinest one trip to Cleveland to find his new home.
Being reunited with Browns coach Romeo Crennel made his decision easy.
McGinest signed a three-year, $12 million contract with the Browns Wednesday. The deal includes $6 million in guarantees and bonuses.
The 34-year-old linebacker spent seven seasons with Crennel in New England, including four with Crennel as defensive coordinator.
"He's a big reason why I came," McGinest said. "He's like a father. He makes you feel comfortable and gives you that family atmosphere."
Three Super Bowl crowns
McGinest was a member of three Super Bowl winners and had been with the Patriots since being drafted in the first round in 1994. He was cut by New England last week in a salary-cap move, visited Cleveland Tuesday and reached the deal Wednesday without visiting any other teams.
The two-time Pro Bowl selection would have carried a salary cap figure of more than $7 million next season in New England.
McGinest looked a bit out of place holding a No. 55 Browns jersey and said it seemed odd. He said he held no animosity toward New England for releasing him and looked forward to helping build the Browns into a winner.
"I didn't want to go to a team to sign a contract and get some money," said McGinest, wearing a Browns cap. "I wanted to be a part of a family. They made me feel like family. They made me feel needed, like I could come in and help them."
Besides Crennel, recently signed nose tackle Ted Washington encouraged his former teammate to come to Cleveland. The two played on the Patriots' 2003 championship team.
Linebacker Andra Davis, who will line up inside next to McGinest in the Browns' 3-4 defense, also wooed him to Cleveland. Davis sat in on the news conference, looking pleased.
"We're going to be aggressive and go at people and hit people," McGinest said of the role he and Davis will play.
Been active in signing
The Browns, with nearly $25 million to spend on free agents, have been one of the most active teams this off-season, signing center LeCharles Bentley, wide receiver Joe Jurevicius, offensive lineman Kevin Shaffer, punter Dave Zastudil and Washington.
But they hadn't addressed their pass rushing, an area general manager Phil Savage listed as a priority after the Browns ranked last in sacks last season.
The deal for McGinest developed quickly after pass rusher Kalimba Edwards, who was in talks with the Browns, re-signed with Detroit.
McGinest has 78 career sacks, including six last season, and is the NFL's postseason sacks leader with 16.
Not only will McGinest improve the Browns' pass rush, Savage said he will help bring other players to Cleveland.
"He brings a tremendous amount of credibility to our team," Savage said.
The Browns also signed offensive lineman Bob Hallen to a two-year contract Wednesday. Hallen is expected to give Cleveland depth at center and guard. He has played in 86 games, including 47 starts, in eight years with San Diego and Atlanta.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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