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'He's a blue-collar guy'

Browns sign Rhett to three-year, $6 million contract

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Posted: Saturday February 19, 2000 05:53 PM

  Cleveland gets a little revenge by signing Errict Rhett away from the Ravens. Doug Pensinger/Allsport

CLEVELAND (AP) -- The Cleveland Browns have their featured running back and have snatched the Baltimore Ravens' leading rusher in one move.

Snubbed by other running backs, the Browns agreed to a three-year, $6 million contract Saturday with the Ravens' Errict Rhett, who made $400,000 last season with the Ravens.

"He has been a productive back in this league, and we look forward to him continuing that production as a Cleveland Brown," Browns coach Chris Palmer said in a statement.

Rhett's agent, Gene Mato, said the free agent fell in love with Cleveland during a visit this week. Rhett met with Browns coaches at the team's suburban Berea complex and attended a Cavaliers game along with Dwight Clark, the Browns director of football operations.

"He's a blue-collar guy and wanted to play with a blue-collar city," Mato said. "He's always been known as a hard-nosed, between-the-tackles type runner."

Rhett, 29, finished 11th in the AFC last year in rushing with 852 yards on 236 carries and five touchdowns. He also had 169 yards and two touchdowns receiving and hasn't fumbled in three years.

He had 1,000-yard rushing seasons his first two years in the league with Tampa Bay where he played for four years.

Mato said Rhett initially wanted to go to Miami, but it was questionable whether he'd be the featured back there. Rhett is from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and played college ball for Florida.

"In Cleveland, they've given him every indication he'd be the featured back," Mato said.

Rhett wasn't Cleveland's initial choice either.

The Browns wanted to sign James Stewart of Jacksonville, but he opted for a five-year, $25 million contract with Detroit.

"Once [Stewart] signed with Detroit, I think they felt Errict was the next logical choice," Mato said. "I think when all is said and done and you compare both guys' numbers -- I think Cleveland will be pretty satisfied with their choice."

Baltimore made an offer to Rhett near $6 million, but Rhett passed on it, Mato said.

Like most opposing running backs, Rhett had big games against Cleveland last year, including two of his four 100-yard rushing games.

He rushed for 117 yards and two touchdowns in Baltimore's 41-9 victory on Nov. 7 in Cleveland and gained 113 yards in the Ravens' 17-10 home win on Sept. 26 against the Browns.

Related information
2000 AFC Team-By-Team Free Agent List
2000 NFC Team-By-Team Free Agent List
2000 NFL Free-Agent Signings
Ravens pick up Sharpe, Banks to beef up offense
Jaguars' Searcy agrees to 5-year, $50 million extension
Carruth says baby's grandparents delaying case
Lewis reports to Maryland pretrial release services
Rhett leaves Cleveland without a deal with Browns
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