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Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Browns pry DE Rucker away from Bengals

By Jamison Hensley

The Bengals' defensive line got a lot weaker today, and the Browns' front got much stronger.

Cleveland agreed to a deal with Bengals free-agent defensive end Frostee Rucker, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Rucker's deal is $20 million over five years, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

Rucker provides a quality presence opposite disruptive defensive end Jabaal Sheard and rounds out a strong Browns defensive line that includes defensive tackles Ahtyba Rubin and Phil Taylor. The Bengals considered Rucker among their top three priorities in free agency, along with safety Reggie Nelson (who remains unrestricted) and kicker Mike Nugent (who received the franchise tag).

Effective when healthy, Rucker is coming off one of his best seasons. He took Michael Johnson's starting job after Week 6 and finished with four sacks.

Rucker, 28, also solves the biggest weakness in the Browns' defensive line. He takes over for right end Jayme Mitchell, who was benched for his poor play.

The Bengals, which had one of the top defensive lines in the NFL last season, will need Johnson to bounce back and step into his old starting role.

The Bengals defensive line didn't only lose Rucker today. About the same time Rucker was agreeing to a deal with the Browns, versatile defensive lineman Jonathan Fanene signed a three-year deal with the New England Patriots, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer, that reportedly included a $3.85 million signing bonus.

Fanene is a high-effort player who played a major role in the Bengals' pass rush. He finished second on the Bengals with six sacks and third with 13 quarterback pressures.

The quality depth of the Bengals defensive front got thinned out in a matter of an hour.