New challenge for Stokes

Offensive lineman Barry Stokes is no stranger to change. Thrust into the spotlight last year when a rash of injuries made him a surprise starter for Green Bay, Stokes is ready to take on a new challenge with the Cleveland Browns, according to reports.

ESPN reports that Stokes, an unrestricted free agent who played in Green Bay the past three seasons, has reached an agreement in principle to join the the Cleveland Browns. The official announcement of the deal, confirmed by Stokes' agent, Dr. D.S. Ping, is scheduled for later this week. The Browns will be Stokes' eighth team since first joining the Detroit Lions as an undrafted free agent in 1996. In fact, the former Eastern Michigan standout likely will start for the Browns in 2002, either at left guard or left tackle. Stokes, 28, joins tackle Ryan Tucker and guard Tre Johnson as free agent additions to the O-line. The additions are part of Cleveland's drive to pull their running game out of the NFL's statistical cellar. Stokes, who has played at every line position except center in his NFL career, is 6-feet-4 and 310 pounds and capable of knocking defenders off the line of scrimmage. He played in all 16 games for the Packers last year, seeing mostly special teams action until starting left tackle Chad Clifton suffered a ankle injury. Stokes made his first-ever NFL start at Chicago on Nov. 11. Clifton's versatility was demonstrated when he assumed the back-up tight end role when rookie David Martin injured his shoulder early in the season. Stokes, who has also logged two full seasons in NFL Europe. Despite the fact that the journeyman lineman has played in only 27 games during his career and started three, he was a relatively hot commodity in the free agent market due to his versatility and success in his new starting role last year.

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