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Browns continue overhaul, land CB Brown, LB Gocong from Eagles

CLEVELAND -- While their best defensive player dealt with legal problems, the Browns received some help for one of the NFL's worst units.

The Browns acquired cornerback Sheldon Brown and linebacker Chris Gocong in a Friday trade with the Philadelphia Eagles for linebacker Alex Hall and two draft picks. The fourth- and fifth-round selections are the Nos. 105 and 137 overall in this month's three-day draft.

The deal was announced as Browns nose tackle Shaun Rogers -- a three-time Pro Bowl pick -- apologized after being arrested for trying to carry a loaded handgun onto a plane. But time stops for nothing in the NFL, and the Browns agreed to terms of the deal, pending physicals.

A Browns spokesman confirmed the trade but said the team will not comment until the physicals are completed.

Browns general manager Tom Heckert, who spent the previous four seasons as the Eagles' GM, returned to his roots to continue an overhaul of Cleveland's defense, which ranked last in the AFC last season and gave up less yardage than only the Detroit Lions.

Brown, a former Pro Bowl pick who hasn't missed a game since becoming a full-time starter in 2004, likely will move into Cleveland's starting lineup on the opposite side of Eric Wright, who made 16 starts last season at left cornerback. Brandon McDonald made six starts on the right side, with Mike Adams taking the other six.

Brown wanted a new contract from the Eagles last season, and it's believed the trade was contingent upon him receiving a deal from the Browns. Despite his unhappiness over the contract, Brown played through a hamstring injury last season and recorded a career-best five interceptions.

Brown, a second-round pick by the Eagles in 2002, and Lito Sheppard replaced veterans Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor as Philadelphia's cornerbacks after the 2003 season. Brown and Sheppard played a key role in helping the Eagles reach Super Bowl XXXIX in the 2004 season.


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Gocong started 35 games in four seasons with the Eagles. He had just signed a one-year deal.

"Sheldon Brown has been a very good football player for the Eagles over the last eight years," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "He's a good person, a legitimate tough guy, and he'll do a good job helping the Browns. Chris did a good job converting from defensive end to linebacker and helped us win a lot of football games. We wish both of them all of the best."

Heckert and new team president Mike Holmgren have been busy reshaping the Browns, who are coming off a 5-11 season under first-year coach Eric Mangini. Hall's departure follows those of quarterbacks Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson and linebacker Kamerion Wimbley, the team's top pass rusher.

The Browns selected Hall out of Division II St. Augustine in the seventh round of the 2008 draft. Physically gifted, he showed promise in recording three sacks as a rookie, but he mostly played on special teams last season and finished with just four tackles.

"Alex Hall is a big, athletic linebacker who we've had our eyes on over the last couple of years, and he'll have a chance to compete at the SAM linebacker spot," Eagles GM Howie Roseman said.

The Browns still have 10 picks in the draft, but Brown's arrival could change their early round draft strategy. The team has shown a strong interest in Tennessee safety Eric Berry and Florida cornerback Joe Haden and has visits planned with both players.

Brown is the latest veteran to depart Philadelphia this offseason. Former All-Pro running back Brian Westbrook, former All-Pro guard Shawn Andrews, linebacker Will Witherspoon, defensive end Darren Howard and wide receiver Kevin Curtis were released.

Despite that trend, Roseman insisted the Eagles aren't rebuilding after an 11-5 finish and a playoff loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

"We're trying to win, we're always trying to win," Roseman said. "For us, this was a football decision. We're excited about some of the players on our team, and we're excited about the quality of this draft."

Ellis Hobbs, acquired from the New England Patriots last year, steps into Brown's spot. Hobbs is coming off neck surgery and probably will have to win the starting role in training camp. He started every game when the Patriots went 16-0 during the 2007 regular season.

"It's an opportunity for Ellis Hobbs to step up and contribute to our defense," Roseman said. "We like Ellis Hobbs. We think he's a good starting corner in this league, and we feel we have other players on this team that can step into that spot and contribute."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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