New Browns president Mike Holmgren landed his first two free agents Sunday, signing offensive tackle Tony Pashos of San Francisco and linebacker Scott Fujita of New Orleans to multi-year contracts, the team announced.
Pashos signed a three-year, $10.3 million contract, according to a league source. Fujita agreed to a three-year, $14 million deal, Cleveland.com reported.
Pashos, who spent last season with the San Francisco 49ers, flew to Cleveland Saturday after visiting the Washington Redskins. Cleveland was the first free agent visit for Fujita.
“We are extremely happy that we were able to get Scott and Tony signed so quickly,” Browns general manager Tom Heckert said in a statement. “They are two players we had targeted from the start of free agency. Both are smart, tough and physical - the type of players that the Browns are looking for.
“Scott possesses tremendous size for a linebacker, and this will allow him to play inside or outside in our 3-4 defense. He has been a starter throughout his career, has been exposed to several different defensive schemes and has been successful in all of them. He is a great leader and played a big part in the success that the Saints achieved last year.
“We like the fact that Tony has started a lot of games in this league, and has been a part of some productive offenses with Baltimore and Jacksonville. Although he’s started at right tackle, he has the versatility to play inside as well, and he will come in and compete at both tackle and guard with us.”
Injury limited Pashos to five games and one start in 2009. But he was a starter for the previous three seasons in Jacksonville and Baltimore.
Pashos should step into the lineup at right tackle, taking over for John St. Clair. St. Clair was exposed in the second game last season, when Denver Broncos outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil beat him for four sacks. Right tackle has been a trouble spot for the Browns since Ryan Tucker suffered a hip injury that required surgery in a May, 2008 minicamp.
Pashos, 29, established himself as a locker room leader in Jacksonville, serving as a member of the player leadership council that met with coach Jack Del Rio. His teammates voted him the winner of the Byron ''Whizzer'' White Award in 2008 for his commitment to the Jaguars and the community.
A powerlifter in high school in Lockport, Ill., Pashos speaks fluent Greek as well as German. He played in NFL Europe in 2003, but missed his rookie season with a training camp hand injury.
Fujita, an eight-year veteran, was allowed to test the market by the Super Bowl champions. He has had a relationship with Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan dating back to 2002 when Fujita was coming out of the University of California.
In New Orleans, Fujita was the first free agent signed when coach Sean Payton was hired in 2006. Payton coached in Dallas in 2005 when Fujita played there.
Turning 31 in April, Fujita missed five games with a leg injury in 2009 but finished with 58 tackles, a sack and two forced fumbles.
The former fifth-round pick of Kansas City in 2002, Fujita walked on as a safety at Cal and earned a scholarship after switching to linebacker as a redshirt freshman. He had been recruited by several Ivy League schools and was an academic All-Pac 10 selection at Cal. Fujita earned a degree in political science and a Masters in education.
Fujita was lauded in Sunday's New Orleans Times-Picayune for donating half of his $82,000 in playoff earnings to Louisiana coastal restoration and Haitian relief. His teammates voted Fujita the Saints Man of The Year in 2008 for his community service and he was a defensive captain in 2007-08.
Standing 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, Fujita also has the flexibility to play several positions if the Browns want to switch schemes mid-game.
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