As they indicated they would, the Browns officially released Courtney Brown this afternoon. The release comes hours before the team would have been responsible for paying a $2.5 million roster bonus to the oft-injured defensive lineman.
Brown, as has been noted ad nauseum by the press, was initial pick of the 2000 NFL draft. The lineman joins quarterback Tim Couch as the second top pick in the draft to be cut by the Browns in the last year. The team's initial selection in the 2001 draft, Gerard Warren, was traded for a fourth-round draft pick earlier this month.
The team has been negotiating with Brown up until this point, and states publicly via the press release that they would like to see the Penn State product return to the team in 2005. Here is the text of the team's press release, withheld from the independent press until the Browns could post a story on their own web site:
The Cleveland Browns have terminated the contract of DE Courtney Brown, the club announced today. Brown played in only two games last season for Cleveland and totaled three tackles.
"We are hoping this is a temporary situation and Courtney (Brown) chooses to continue his career with the Browns," said Browns Senior Vice President and General Manager Phil Savage.
Brown, the first selection in the 2000 NFL Draft, played five seasons for Cleveland and totaled 208 tackles, 138 solo, 17 sacks for 104 yards, 21 passes defensed, six forced fumbles and five recovered fumbles. Brown's best season came in his rookie season in 2000, when he appeared in all 16 regular season games and totaled 85 tackles, 4.5 sacks for 22.5 yards and nine passes defensed.