Myles Garrett has yet to conquer one of his main goals by becoming the NFL Defensive Player of the Year, but the Browns are still betting he’ll bounce back from a season-ending suspension and deliver for the better part of the next decade.
Garrett became the highest-paid non-quarterback in league history Wednesday, when he signed a five-year contract extension worth $125 million in new money. With an average annual salary of $25 million, he surpassed Chicago Bears edge rusher Khalil Mack’s previous non-quarterback record of $23.5 million a year.
The Browns announced the signing after Garrett revealed it on social media.
A video posted on Garrett’s Twitter account shows him writing “Cleveland keep betting on me, world keep betting against us” once the extension had been finalized.
The framework of the blockbuster deal spearheaded by new Browns general manager Andrew Berry and Garrett’s agent, Bus Cook, had been reported Tuesday. It contains $100 million in guarantees, including a $50 million signing bonus, according to NFL Network.
After Berry exercised the fifth-year option on Garrett’s rookie contract in April, the star defensive end had two years remaining on his deal, which will pay him a base salary of $4,612,125 in 2020 and $15,184,000 in 2021 before the mega-extension kicks in.
Now Garrett, 24, is under contract for the next seven seasons, or through 2026.
“One of our fundamental organizational beliefs is identifying young players on our roster and proactively retaining them as part of our present and future core,” Berry said in a news release. “We go through great lengths to select players whose make-up and performance embody the characteristics we are looking for within our team. Today, we’re delighted that Myles Garrett will be a Cleveland Brown for many years to come.
“Myles’ rare physical gifts in conjunction with his work ethic, intellect and humility have been the catalysts behind an auspicious start to his young career. Despite his early individual successes, Myles maintains the same drive toward greatness that he displayed as a 22-year old rookie. We firmly believe that this intense focus means the best is yet to come.”
Berry held the title of vice president of player personnel and served as the Browns’ chief talent evaluator in 2017, when former head of football operations Sashi Brown drafted Garrett first overall out of Texas A&M University.
“In 2017, the Cleveland Browns bet on me,” Garrett, a native of Arlington, Texas, said in the release. “This city quickly became my home and these people quickly became my family. I’m eternally grateful for this opportunity, the support of my friends and family, the organization, my teammates, the fans — I could go on forever, but even that wouldn’t be enough time to express my gratitude. I’ll just say this: Keep betting on me, Cleveland, because I won’t let you down. Now, let’s get to work.”
The Browns backed Garrett despite the NFL suspending him for the final six games of last season because he hit Mason Rudolph over the head with the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback’s helmet on Nov. 14. The league reinstated Garrett on Feb. 12. The next day during an interview with ESPN’s Mina Kimes, Garrett accused Rudolph of calling him “a stupid N-word” in the moments preceding the helmet swing, an allegation Rudolph has denied.
“It would be remiss of me not to address the fact that we are choosing to do this after a season during which Myles was suspended,” Berry said in the release. “Myles has been accountable for his mistake and we view the incident as well out of character. We don’t believe one moment should define him based on how he has handled himself prior to and in the months after last year’s incident. We are excited to ensure that Myles will stay in Cleveland for the foreseeable future.”
Garrett believes he was in the running for Defensive Player of the Year when his 2019 season ended. He had 10 sacks through 10 games — on track to make his second consecutive Pro Bowl and break the single-season franchise record of 14 sacks set by Reggie Camp in 1984 — when the NFL doled out its punishment.
Without Garrett, the Browns collapsed. The defense was a shell of itself down the stretch, and the team lost four of its final six games to finish 6-10. Then owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam fired coach Freddie Kitchens and reached a mutual agreement with GM John Dorsey to part ways. Coach Kevin Stefanski and Berry were hired in January.
In Garrett’s three seasons, he has played 37 games and has 104 tackles, including 30.5 sacks and eight tackles for loss, to go along with six forced fumbles, four passes defensed and a fumble recovery. He made his only Pro Bowl in 2018, when he posted a career-high 44 tackles, including 13.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and three passes defensed. He has the most sacks in franchise history through three seasons, and he is the only Browns player to ever tally multiple double-digit sack seasons.
Garrett is just one of four players drafted in the first round by the Browns since 1999 to receive a second contract from the organization. The others are retired left tackle Joe Thomas (third overall pick in 2007), Atlanta Falcons center Alex Mack (21st overall in 2009) and Steelers cornerback Joe Haden (seventh overall in 2010).
Although poor drafting is the main reason there have not been more long-term commitments to top choices, a lack of organizational continuity is a contributing factor, too.
For example, Stefanski is the Browns’ third full-time head coach and Joe Woods their third defensive coordinator since Garrett was drafted three years ago.
“I think it’s really important for us as an organization to cement Myles’ status here for a really long time,” Stefanski said in the release. “He was drafted No. 1 overall, and you’ve seen over the years what an extremely bright future this young player has. I think it was a prudent decision on Andrew’s part and Myles’ part to keep Myles here for many productive seasons. Myles’ skill set, I think, is still scratching the surface. He’s young, and I can’t wait to get our hands on him and put him in this scheme and let him loose.
“He’s as disruptive as they come. He’s big, long, fast, quick and has a motor. He checks all the boxes. I think he fits so perfectly into what we want to be schematically in terms of getting off the football and being in attack mode for 60 minutes.”
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