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Saturday, February 15, 1997 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Pro Bowl Linebacker To Join Seahawks -- Pittsburgh Standout Chad Brown Packs His Sacks For Seattle

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

KIRKLAND - The Seahawks got their man.

Seattle Seahawk Coach Dennis Erickson and vice president Randy Mueller had one offseason priority. His name is Chad Brown, a 6-foot-2, 240-pound Pro Bowl linebacker from the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Brown can rush passers (he was third in the AFC with 13 sacks last season), can play outside linebacker as well as inside and was the most coveted defensive player on the free-agent market.

So the Seahawks flew him out before anyone else could get him and then didn't let Brown go until he agreed to become a Seahawk. Last night's announcement that Brown will sign a six-year contract with a $7 million signing bonus on the first day of free agency should surprise other NFL teams.

"There's no question this is the best signing we've ever had," Mueller said at a hastily called news conference.

Mueller said he was exhausted. Landing perhaps the biggest prize in free agency took all day.

Throughout the day, the price kept increasing as Seattle pulled away from everyone else. The salary was not confirmed, but the top linebackers in the NFL currently make between $3.5 million and $3.99 million. The Seahawks figured to be about $4 million to $5 million under the salary cap before soon-to-be-traded quarterback Rick Mirer's $2.488 million salary will be dealt away.

It also probably will keep them from re-signing free-agent linebacker Terry Wooden. The Seahawks still will make pitches for defensive end Michael McCrary and safety Robert Blackmon.

Still, the money apparently didn't matter. Brown is only 26 years old and was extremely productive after moving from inside linebacker to outside for the Steelers, a move necessitated by the season-ending injury suffered by Greg Lloyd. After four NFL seasons, everybody in the league is talking about his potential.

"We knew if we didn't sign him today we didn't think we'd be able to sign him," Erickson said.

They did, though. The Seahawks had planned for the time when they could bring Brown to Kirkland. Mueller said he knew Brown, a four-year starter in college at Colorado, would be expensive. They cleared the bonus through both ownership groups. Team officials would not confirm that the bonus came from billionaire Paul Allen, who is considering buying the team.

Still, it was a statement by the Seahawks that they want to be competitive and perhaps from Allen that he is serious about improving the team should he decide to purchase it.

"I think he came here with the intention to visit a couple of more teams," Mueller said of Brown, Pittsburgh's second-round draft pick in 1993.

In Brown's four seasons in with the Steelers, he played in 56 games and started 49. He has 299 career tackles, 30 sacks and eight forced fumbles, including 81 tackles and three forced fumbles last season.

The offers that came from the other teams are not believed to be significantly better than the one Seattle made. But the Seahawks felt they had a chance late Thursday afternoon when Brown agreed to visit. Mueller drove Brown, his wife, Kristin, their infant child and Kristin's sister around the area yesterday, showing them the sights of Seattle.

It must have worked. After they returned, Mueller took Brown to meet the coaches. All the while, Brown's agent, Lamont Smith, was in another room fielding offers from other teams.

At one point early in the evening, Mueller was alone in another room with executive vice president Mickey Loomis, waiting to hear if they had done enough to pull off the coup of the free-agent period. Mueller went to check on Brown. He walked in the door and heard the words he had been dying to hear all day.

"I want to be a Seahawk," Brown said.

An hour later, Mueller and Erickson sat behind a table and smiled as the news of Brown's agreement was released.

Note

-- Chicago still has not come to terms with quarterback Rick Mirer, so a trade between the Seahawks and Bears remains on hold. There are signs that Chicago and Mirer's agents are closer to a deal.

The Seahawks are expected to receive the Bears' first-round pick, the 11th overall in the draft, in exchange for Mirer. Should the trade fall through, Chicago is planning on bringing in San Francisco quarterback Elvis Grbac late next week.

Copyright (c) 1997 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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