Browns sign first-round pick Jeff Faine

By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer

BEREA, Ohio (AP) - The Cleveland Browns finally agreed to contract terms with center Jeff Faine, their first-round draft pick. It wasn't a snap.

Faine, who is expected to move directly into the Browns' starting lineup this season, ended a one-week holdout Monday by agreeing to terms on a five-year deal.

Browns president Carmen Policy said Faine, a three-year starter at Notre Dame, was expected to sign his deal Monday night. He will be on the practice field Tuesday, which should please Browns coach Butch Davis, who has been irritated by rookie holdouts.

"The coach is not as grumpy as he has been," Policy said in announcing Faine's signing.

Faine was selected in the first round (No. 21 overall) by the Browns, who released veteran center Dave Wohlabaugh in February as part of a salary-cap purge.

Policy said Faine's deal was worth more than $7 million and was structured as a seven-year deal with two voidable years based on playing time and performance incentives.

The 6-foot-3, 303-pounder is the second draft pick to sign with the Browns, who have been attempting to sign their picks to five-year deals with mixed success.

On Sunday, the team signed long snapper Ryan Pontbriand, one of their fifth-round picks, to a five-year contract. Policy said Pontbriand received a $235,000 signing bonus.

However, the club still has five unsigned draft picks, in part because the players' agents have been reluctant to sign their clients to long-term deals.

Typically, low-round picks sign for three years, after which they are eligible for free agency. A young player doesn't want to sign a deal he might regret if he becomes an NFL starter.

Policy said the Browns are offsetting the length of the five-year proposals by offering larger signing bonuses and reachable playing incentives.

"These five-year deals aren't as bad as people are portraying them to be," Policy said. "We're giving them as much protection as we can."

Policy remains optimistic the Browns will soon have their other draft picks signed. Vice president Lal Heneghan, the team's top contract negotiator, had discussions Monday with the agent for linebacker Chaun Thompson, a second-round pick.

Faine missed seven days of training camp and nine practices during his holdout. In the past few days, Davis refused to discuss the unsigned players.

Policy said Davis didn't place any pressure on him to get the player into camp.

"I think all of us feel a little better because the draft picks have been here during the offseason," Policy said.

Faine earned a reputation as a nasty player while with the Fighting Irish, and he showed some of the same feistiness during mini-camps with the Browns.

Guard Barry Stokes said Faine will be a welcome addition to the Browns' offensive line.

"He's a rookie with an attitude," the left guard said. "He's going to run around like the village idiot."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)