Browns Sign LB Barry Gardner

The Browns have made an unexpected free agent move today, signing LB Barry Gardner to a two-year contract. Gardner is a four-year veteran who has played his entire career in Philadelphia. Gardner is a special teams whiz and will likely compete for a starting linebacker job in 2002.

The Browns continued to make defensive moves this afternoon, signing linebacker Barry Gardner to a two-year contract. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Gardner comes from Philadelphia, where he was drafted in the second round in 1999 and has been with the Eagles for his entire pro career.

A special teams standout, Gardner has led the Eagles in special teams tackles for the past two years. He appeared in all 16 games for the Eagles this season, including the team's two post-season contests.

Gardner was likely attracted to Cleveland by the opportunity to compete for a starting job in training camp. The linebacker has not started a game for the Eagles since 2000, when he started thirteen contests at weakside linebacker. Gardner registered 95 tackles for the Eagles that year, which marks his career high.

As remarked in HotNews updates  during last year's play-offs, Gardner has a reputation as a solid run stuffer, but somewhat on the slow side, which allowed the Buccaneers to exploit the Eagles pass defense. Gardner struggled when faced with one-on-one matchups with Michael Pittman and Joe Jurevicious, and was burned twice for long yardage. Gardner will clearly have to improve his pass defense abilities or he will be unlikely to secure a starting job under the speed conscious Butch Davis regime.

Gardner's special teams skills are beyond debate, however, and will help the team overcome the loss of safety Chris Akins. The Browns under Davis prize players who have versatile, and clearly Gardner fills that bill.

- AB


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