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Browns sign LB Stewart, keep LB Taylor

CLEVELAND (March 15, 2005) -- The Cleveland Browns signed free-agent linebacker Matt Stewart to a three-year contract, giving coach Romeo Crennel another option for his defensive scheme.

Stewart, 25, started every game last season for the Atlanta Falcons, finishing second on the team with 89 tackles. He also made seven stops in their two postseason games.

Crennel is switching Cleveland's defensive scheme to a 3-4 this season, making linebackers an even more important commodity.

"Matt was somebody that we identified early on in the free-agent process as someone we would like to have," Browns general manager Phil Savage said in a release. "He can play either the outside or the inside linebacker position, which will provide us with some versatility as we transition into the 3-4."

The 6-foot-3, 232-pound Stewart -- a native of Columbus, Ohio -- played outside linebacker for the Falcons last season.

The Browns also re-signed free agent linebacker Ben Taylor to a one-year contract. He started eight games in 2003, and began last season as the club's starting weakside linebacker before hurting a chest muscle and undergoing surgery.

He has played in only 23 games -- 10 starts -- since being drafted in the fourth round in 2002.

The Browns lost linebacker Kevin Bentley in free agency. They nontendered the restricted free agent and he agreed to terms with Seattle last week.

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