A Marriage of Convenience

The Browns arrangement with L.J. Shelton works for both - for now...

The Browns' decision in early June to sign L.J. Shelton as their left tackle was a marriage of convenience; the Browns were looking for a reason to release Ross Verba, and Shelton needed a job after being released by the Cardinals.

Both sides are taking the marriage one step at a time. Verba was under contract through 2006. Shelton's deal is for only one season, and it's not like a rookie behind him is developing.

"This late in free agency, there weren't that many opportunities out there," Shelton said. "By this time, most teams don't have holes in their offensive line that they're trying to fill, especially at left tackle.

"Coming to the Browns was a prime opportunity for me. A one-year deal makes sense. If it works out for the Browns, then we can go from there. And if it doesn't work out, then we can all make decisions at the end of this thing. But I like it here. I'm working hard. I want to be a part of things here."

This is not the first time Shelton has lived in Cleveland. His father, Lonnie Shelton, was a forward with the Cavaliers. He did not reside in Cleveland when his father was a Cavalier from 1983-86 because he was staying with his mother in California, but he did live in the area for a year after his mother married a man from the Cleveland suburb of Broadview Heights after his father was no longer a Cavalier.

"It's kind of a neat situation to be in, playing in the same city that your dad played in at one point," Shelton said. "It has special meaning. My dad was excited for me to come here. The first thing he said to me was that it's cold here. He's from California, but I went to high school and college in Detroit so I'm used to it.

"He had an enjoyable experience here. He still has friends in this area that I've actually been in contact with. So I've got a second family out this way. I liked the Browns when I was living here before. They were the local team, and I was into football at an early age. But it's just the tradition that the Browns have, more than anything, that makes being here special."

Shelton played six seasons with the Cardinals. He fell out of favor with Coach Dennis Green last season and was replaced at left tackle by Leonard Davis. At 6-6, 354 pounds he is 50 pounds heavier than Verba and should be an improvement as a run blocker. Questions exist about his pass-blocking. Verba yielded only two sacks last year.

CAMP CALENDAR: Training camp at the Browns' complex in Berea, Ohio, opens July 29 and closes to the public Aug. 18. Camp officially ends a week later. No scrimmages against opponents are scheduled, but the Browns will host a 'Fan Night' at Cleveland Browns Stadium Aug. 6. It will be their only practice at the Stadium this summer.
 


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