Paul Allen’s private jet flew to Denver to pick up Chad Brown and bring him to Seattle.
Then the Seattle billionaire - and would-be buyer of the Seattle Seahawks - dangled such an overwhelming contract in front of the free-agent linebacker that Brown decided to sign on the spot, passing up planned visits to other cities.
“It’s all Paul Allen’s money,” Allen associate Bob Whitsitt said Saturday. “Signings like these would not be done unless Paul’s willing to put extra dollars in.”
Allen, who has an option to buy the Seahawks from Ken Behring, made Brown, a Pro Bowler with the Pittsburgh Steelers last season, the richest linebacker in the NFL on Friday night.
Brown, 26, signed a six-year, $24 million contract that includes a $7 million signing bonus.
At $4 million a season, the former Colorado player from Pasadena, Calif., now will earn more money than San Diego’s Junior Seau, who earns $3.9 million a year.
Brown, one of the top prizes in this year’s NFL free-agency sweepstakes, was literally swept off his feet by Allen, although he didn’t meet the Microsoft co-founder.
“Paul Allen’s commitment was shown early in the jet that picked me up,” Brown said. “It was a pretty amazing experience. I feel very comfortable about the situation here.”
Houston, Carolina and Kansas City were expecting visits from Brown after he talked to the Seahawks. Those teams never got a chance to make their pitches.
“They had their offer ready for me when I got here and wouldn’t let me leave,” Brown said.
A year ago, Behring tried to move the Seahawks to Anaheim, Calif., and the NFL told him no. Then Allen put up $20 million to Behring for the option - until July 1 - of purchasing the team.
In Pittsburgh last season, the 6-foot-2, 240-pound Brown ranked third in the AFC with 13 quarterback sacks, including a league-best 4-1/2 in a game against Cincinnati on Oct. 13. He helped the Steelers win the AFC Central with a 10-6 record and go to the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season under coach Bill Cowher.
The Seahawks, who haven’t been to the playoffs since 1988 and who haven’t had a winning season since 1990, convinced Brown that they were going to be winners next season, too. They were 7-9 last season in their second year under coach Dennis Erickson.
“I wouldn’t come here unless I thought we could win,” said Brown.
Now, the Seahawks are expected to pursue some more unrestricted free agents. They’re looking to add a cornerback, perhaps free-agent Willie Williams of the Steelers, and a backup quarterback for John Friesz, perhaps Warren Moon if Moon gets released by Minnesota.
The signing of Brown does not mean that Allen has made up his mind to buy the Seahawks, said Whitsitt, president of Allen’s Football Northwest.
In fact, Whitsitt said Allen still plan to pull out of the deal if Allen can’t get a new outdoor stadium built.
Bills after Hobert
The Buffalo Bills may have found a quarterback to replace the retired Jim Kelly.
The Bills are working out details to acquire Oakland Raiders backup quarterback Billy Joe Hobert for a third-round draft choice, The Buffalo News reported Saturday.
Hobert would compete with Todd Collins for the starting job when the Bills open training camp. The deal is expected to be announced in the next few days, the newspaper said.
Hobert was 0-5 as a starter with the Raiders. He completed 101 of 184 passes for 1,207 yards and 10 touchdowns with nine interceptions. He was 17-0 as a starter in his final two seasons at Washington, leading the Huskies to the national championship in 1991.
Raiders, George delighted
Jeff George, cast aside by his hometown Indianapolis Colts and most recently by the Atlanta Falcons, was welcomed by the Oakland Raiders, who signed the free-agent quarterback to a five-year, $27.5 million contract.
“I just want to say how proud, how excited, how thrilled I am to say I’m an Oakland Raider,” George said at a news conference at the Oakland Coliseum.
The deal displaced QB Jeff Hostetler. The club is trying to trade Hostetler, its starter since 1993.
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