- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The Washington Redskins are making a strong play for a pair of recently released defensive players and could have both signed by week’s end.

Former Cleveland Browns defensive end Courtney Brown, the 2000 draft’s No. 1 overall pick, is considering Washington as one of his two top suitors, while former Buffalo Bills safety Pierson Prioleau already may have reached an agreement in principle to join the Redskins.

The pursuit of the two players sends a message about the Redskins’ continued desire to upgrade in the wake of a rocky start to free agency.

In the market’s first week, Washington traded away No. 1 wide receiver Laveranues Coles and lost linebacker Antonio Pierce and cornerback Fred Smoot to higher-bidding teams. Coach Joe Gibbs said the club would monitor other team’s cuts and “pinpoint” certain players, which he now is doing.

Neither Brown nor Prioleau necessarily would start, but both would be significant additions to Gregg Williams’ defense, the NFL’s reigning third-ranked unit. Williams uses a variety of players and formations, and reserves can be crucial contributors.

Brown, 27, was a major disappointment with the Browns, recording just 17 sacks over five injury-riddled seasons and drawing questions about his motivation. In Washington he would have a chance to justify his one-time status, most likely by contributing to a three-man rotation at end with veterans Phillip Daniels and Renaldo Wynn.

Washington already has the Nos. 2 and 3 picks from the 2000 draft, linebacker LaVar Arrington and left tackle Chris Samuels. But while Arrington has been to three Pro Bowls and Samuels one, Brown hasn’t even made it through a 16-game season since his rookie year. His struggles are viewed as one reason the Browns have struggled since they returned to the NFL in 1999 as an expansion franchise.

Nonetheless, there appears to be significant interest on the part of the Redskins. A source said Redskins coach Joe Gibbs and defensive line coach Greg Blache flew to Cleveland hours after Brown’s release on Monday to make a sales pitch. Gibbs and Blache were back at Redskin Park yesterday.

Brown, according to a Redskins source, wanted to make at least one other trip before deciding on his new home. That other trip was to Denver yesterday. But there were indications that Brown is weighing other opportunities, too. The Browns remain interested in re-signing the defensive end, but in Cleveland he would have to drop 20 pounds and play linebacker.

The Redskins are expected to play host to a visit from Brown in coming days, at which point the club probably would push for a contract.

Prioleau, 27, also was cut Monday after similarly refusing to restructure an outsized contract. Although Buffalo offered Prioleau a new three-year deal, he chose to explore his options after starting just two games last season and playing mostly special teams.

In Washington, Prioleau would reunite with Williams, the former Bills head coach, and Steve Jackson, the former Bills assistant who now coaches Redskins safeties.

Prioleau, who played at Virginia Tech, will visit Redskin Park today. One source said Prioleau already had agreed in principle to a contract with Washington, but agent Brian Mackler replied, “Not yet,” when asked if that were true. Mackler said at least two other teams are interested in Prioleau.

Washington already has a pair of starting safeties, Sean Taylor and Matt Bowen. However, Bowen is coming off a torn ACL that cut short his 2004 season and Williams, in any case, uses a heavy rotation at that spot. Washington’s top reserve safeties are scheduled to be Andre Lott (a restricted free agent) and Ryan Clark.

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