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Browns, Anderson agree to terms

Zac Jackson, Staff Writer

02.29.2008

Phil Savage predicted it would go to the eleventh hour. Then it went about 11 hours more, into the open free agency period.

But Derek Anderson and the Browns agreed to terms on a new, long-term contract Friday that keeps Anderson in Cleveland and allows the Browns to attack free agency period already having accomplished their top two offseason signing goals.

Anderson and running back Jamal Lewis - who signed a three-year deal last week - will return to an offense that ranked among the league's best in yards and points scored last season.

By signing the deal, Anderson returns to the starting job he took over in Week Two of the 2007 regular season. He threw for almost 4,000 yards and led the Browns to 10 wins, their most since 1994.

His rise from backup to Pro Bowler came just two seasons after the Browns claimed him off waivers from the Ravens, who drafted Anderson in the sixth round in 2005. He spent most of his rookie season as the Browns' third quarterback and the first 12 games of 2006 as the backup before getting a chance to see his first significant action.

Anderson, who's just 24, led the Browns to a come-from-behind overtime win over the Chiefs in his first real action, thengot his first career win as a starter last September when the Browns beat the Bengals, 51-45. He started that game by throwing five straight incompletions before ending up with five touchdown passes. His 29 touchdown passes in 2007 tied for the second-most in a single season in franchise history, and his 3,787 yards ranked fifth.

The Browns had extended the highest possible tender to Anderson as he prepared to hit restricted free agency, meaning they would have received first and third round picks as compensation had Anderson signed with another team. But Anderson's signing takes him off the market and gives the Browns the kind of quality depth at the quarterback position they've rarely had in the past.

Behind Anderson is Brady Quinn, who made just one relief appearance in his rookie season after the Browns traded this year's first-round pick to get back into last year's first round and draft Quinn. The Browns know both Anderson and Quinn want to play though only one can, but they feel the team is best by keeping both.

"Our whole intention is to keep both," Savage said Thursday, when it was unclear whether Anderson would sign or test the market. "At some point we know we have to make a decision. That point could come as soon as the next few days or it could come two years from now. Who knows?"