Veteran guard to sign four-year contract

The toll road that leads from Foxboro to Cleveland, where former New England Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel is the new coach, is officially open for business.

In Crennel's first free agency signing period as Browns coach, ESPN.com has learned that veteran guard Joe Andruzzi, who started all but three games for New England during its run of three Super Bowl titles in four seasons, has defected to Cleveland as an unrestricted free agent.

Andruzzi, the first Patriot to leave to play for Crennel, agreed Wednesday to a four-year, $9 million contract. The deal will be signed later this week.

"Joe is a tough, hard-nosed, blue-collar football player," Crennel told the Associated Press. "He gives us flexibility by being able to play both left and right guard and he will add stability to our offensive line."

By acquiring Andruzzi, the Browns have begun the refurbishing of one of the NFL's worst offensive lines. At the combine last week in Indianapolis, first-year general manager Phil Savage used the term "dire straits" to describe the state of the Browns' interior line.

Even with the addition of Andruzzi, who was a stabilizer on New England's blocking unit when it suffered through injuries, Cleveland will continue to pursue veteran offensive linemen.

Andruzzi, 29, began his career as an undrafted free agent with the Green Bay Packers in 1997. The former Southern Connecticut State player was signed by New England in 2000, after the Packers released him.

A tough in-line blocker and good pass protector, Andruzzi has started in 76 of his 95 career appearances.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click hereInsider.