Sports

NFL: Eagles ship linebacker Gocong to the Browns

Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Chris Gocong sacks Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Johnson for an eight-yard loss during first-half action, Sunday, October 11, 2009, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Clem Murray/Philadelphia Inquirer/MCT)
Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Chris Gocong sacks Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Johnson for an eight-yard loss during first-half action, Sunday, October 11, 2009, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Clem Murray/Philadelphia Inquirer/MCT) MCT

Eric Berry, c’mon down!?

A Friday trade with the Philadelphia Eagles might have brought the Browns two starters and perhaps cleared the way for them to draft Tennessee safety Berry, if he’s available when they select seventh overall in the NFL Draft.

The Browns continued to rebuild their 31st-ranked defense by acquiring four-year veteran outside linebacker Chris Gocong and eight-year veteran cornerback Sheldon Brown from the Eagles.

In exchange, the Eagles received linebacker Alex Hall and fourth- and fifth-round picks in this month’s draft, the 105th and 137th overall selections. A seventh-round choice in 2008 out of tiny St. Augustine’s College, Hall was mainly a special teamer last season.

The move reduced to 10 the number of Browns’ selections in the April 22-24 draft but left intact their five picks in the top 92.

Gocong could line up outside opposite Matt Roth, and Brown should start opposite cornerback Eric Wright.

Since last year, Brown had been seeking a new contract after signing a six-year, $30 million deal with a $7.5 million signing bonus in 2004. According to the NFL Players Association, his contract carries base salaries of $2.5 million, $3.5 million and $4.25 million in 2010, ’11 and ’12, respectively.

According to Brown’s agent, Jason Chayut, the Browns have agreed in principle to a restructured contract.Brown, 31, has been a full-time starter since 2004 and will likely replace embattled cornerback Brandon McDonald. The Browns’ secondary, which includes safeties Abram Elam and Mike Adams, could become more formidable with the addition of a playmaker like Berry, who had 14 interceptions in three years at Tennessee and finished nine yards short of the NCAA career record for interception return yards.

Gocong, 26, immediately strengthens a linebacking corps that includes free-agent signee Scott Fujita from the New Orleans Saints, David Bowens, Eric Barton, Marcus Benard, promoted from the practice squad as a rookie because of his pass-rush skills, and restricted free agents Roth and D’Qwell Jackson. The latter two have not signed their one-year tender offers.

Gocong, who signed his restricted free-agent tender Tuesday, has four career sacks after converting from defensive end at Cal Poly, where he totaled 42 sacks in 41 games. He’s played in 47 games and started 35, totaling 169 tackles, eight passes defensed and two forced fumbles. In 2009, Gocong had 44 tackles, one sack and a forced fumble.

He also fits Browns coach Eric Mangini’s mold of smart, tough players. Gocong earned a degree in general engineering and loves to build things and take them apart.

Brown intercepted a career-high five passes in 2009, returning one for an 83-yard touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons, and had 51 tackles, 17 passes defensed and a forced fumble. A second-round pick in 2002 from South Carolina, Brown has 19 career interceptions, 99 passes defensed, seven forced fumbles, seven sacks and 431 tackles.

“Sheldon Brown has been a very good football player for the Eagles over the last eight years,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said in a statement. “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.”

Browns general manager Tom Heckert spent the previous nine seasons with the Eagles and took Gocong during his first draft as Eagles GM in 2006. Mangini gave a hint of his respect for Gocong during a January press conference.

Mangini admitted his dismay when Heckert snatched Gocong in the third round of the 2006 draft when Mangini’s New York Jets had traded to move a few spots to nab him.

“There’s always been a lot of carryover between the drafts I’ve been involved in and the Philadelphia drafts,” Mangini said in January. “Chris Gocong . . . and there were a bunch of other players they took that we had very similar grades on. They have a lot of the (same), not just types of players, but types of people on their roster.”

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