Boyer gets four-year deal from Browns

Working to retain a key reserve and standout special teams player, the Cleveland Browns have reached agreement with veteran linebacker Brant Boyer, a deal that keeps him off the unrestricted free agent list next month.

ESPN.com has learned that the four-year contract Boyer will sign is worth approximately $4.2 million and includes up-front money of $525,000.

Boyer, 32, started a career-high seven games for the Browns in 2003, totaling 80 tackles, and tying his career best in that category. His flexibility, and background at having lined up at every linebacker position, makes the 10-year veteran a valuable contributor.

It is on special teams units, however, that Boyer's true value is best demonstrated. He led Cleveland in special teams tackles for a second straight season in 2003 and was named as the specials teams captain a second consecutive year.

"Brant Boyer has been a leader on our special teams and a key component on our defense over the last three seasons," said head coach Butch Davis. "His status as a team captain shows the respect his teammates have for his character and work ethic. He has been a very positive influence for our young linebackers and his consistent dedication and his productivity set a great example for everyone."

Indeed, the Browns started a trio of second-year linebackers in 2003 and Boyer was a key to their progress over the course of the year.

The former University of Arizona star, who began his NFL career with Miami in 1994, considered going into free agency. But negotiations between the Browns and agent Joe Linta accelerated in recent weeks and, once the two sides moved beyond the discussions of a three-year deal and settled on a four-year term, the deal was consummated.

In addition to his one season in Miami, the classy Boyer played six years in Jacksonville (1995-2000), with the Jaguars choosing him in the expansion stocking draft. He was the Jaguars' top special teams player before signing with the Browns as a free agent in 2001.

For his career, Boyer has played in 127 games, 17 of them as a starter, and has posted 275 tackles, 13 sacks and six interceptions.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.