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Broncos send Droughns to Browns for D-linemen

DENVER (March 30, 2005) -- Denver's defensive line is starting to look more like the Cleveland Browns. Given Cleveland's recent past, it's hard to know how good a transformation that will be.

The Broncos are close to signing former Browns defensive end Courtney Brown, who will join former Browns defensive linemen Gerard Warren, Ebenezer Ekuban and Michael Myers. Denver acquired Ekuban and Myers late Tuesday night in a trade for running back Reuben Droughns.

"I'm excited," Droughns told Denver station KCNC-TV. "I get a new chance, a fresh start with a new team."

Droughns' Miami-based agent, Drew Rosenhaus told The Associated Press, "We're very confident this move will be a good move for Reuben and one everyone will be happy with."

Droughns, who led the Broncos with 1,240 yards last season, was given permission to pursue a trade because he wasn't envisioned as Denver's starting tailback next year. He struck one with Cleveland, the team the Broncos have done the bulk of their dealing with this offseason.

Denver's best-known acquisitions are Brown and Warren - Cleveland's first-round draft picks in 2000 and 2001, both known as underachievers in the time with the Browns. Brown, who will sign a one-year deal with an option for more according to The Denver Post, has missed 33 games over his five-year career, including 14 last year, and has a total of 17 career sacks.

Cleveland finished 15th in the league in defense last year, averaged two sacks a game and won just four games, which led to the ouster of coach Butch Davis. With Brown and Warren on the roster the last four seasons, Cleveland went 25-39.

Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, though, said Brown, the first pick of the 2000 draft, can be a great player if he stays healthy.

"Here's the guy who was the first pick of the draft, he wants to get to another level too," Shanahan said at the NFL meetings last week. "He's tired of being hurt."

Brown was pursued by Denver, Washington, Seattle and Jacksonville after his release by the Browns earlier this month but decided to sign with the Broncos, a source close to the team told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Brown's agent, Marvin Demoff, did not return phone messages left at his office by the AP, but he told The Gazette of Colorado Springs: "I think (Denver) had everything he was looking for. If he had a list of 10 things, they hit on all 10."

Warren, acquired by the Broncos in a trade earlier in the offseason, was the third pick of the 2001 draft. Like Brown, he never lived up to the hype, totaling only 16½ sacks in four seasons. He is in the final year of his contract, however, and Shanahan said he, too, is worth a chance.

"He's got a lot of athletic ability and the guy who coached him really thinks he's got a lot of upside," Shanahan said, citing Patterson's recommendation. "We thought he was worth a chance. Once you've got a coach who feels good about somebody who has lot of athletic ability, you don't mind taking a chance."

In Ekuban, the Broncos get a sixth-year veteran who had eight sacks last year but underwent knee and shoulder surgery at the end of the season. Myers, a seventh-year veteran, had one sack and started seven games for Cleveland last season.

Denver's other key offseason move on defense was the re-signing of linebacker Ian Gold, who played for the Broncos from 2000-03, but left last season for the Buccaneers.

The Broncos finished the season ranked fourth in defense, but had trouble creating turnovers and getting to the quarterback. After being picked apart by the Colts and Peyton Manning for the second straight year in the playoffs, they are looking to revamp.

The 3-4 formation will be part of the changes, and Brown and Warren will both have a chance to start.

"I think the 3-4 over the last few years has really been good because you never know which linebacker is coming," Shanahan said.

The Broncos lost last year's leading pass rusher, Reggie Hayward, in free agency.

Still in limbo is the future of Trevor Pryce, who missed most of last year with a back injury.

Pryce is scheduled to count $9 million against Denver's cap this season. The Broncos, who had only about $3 million in cap room before the signing of Brown, gave Pryce permission to seek a trade.

If the Broncos can get a first- or second-round pick for Pryce, they'll likely take the deal. If not, they'll try to rework the contract and bring him back.

"He's a good player. So there's a scenario" in which the Broncos would bring him back, Shanahan said.

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