A knee injury and off-field issues have seriously threatened cornerback Aaron Berry’s NFL career, though he’ll receive another chance to resurrect it with the Browns.
The Browns announced today that they signed Berry as an unrestricted free agent. Terms of the contract were not immediately disclosed. Berry paid the organization a visit in March but didn’t immediately strike a deal.
“Aaron Berry gives us both depth and competition at corner, and has the potential to upgrade our kicking game,” Browns General Manager Ray Farmer said in a news release. “He's tough and relentless and his strength prior to his injury was man coverage. He's also accountable for his past, which is well-documented.”
The 5-foot-9, 190-pound Berry hasn’t appeared in an NFL game since he played for the New York Jets in 2012, when new Browns coach Mike Pettine was in his fourth and final season as the defensive coordinator of the team. Berry, who’ll turn 26 on June 25, suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament last July during a training camp practice with the Jets and missed the entire 2013 season.
Berry played seven games for the Jets, who gave him a second chance. He was projected to become a starter for the Detroit Lions in 2012, but they cut him that summer in the wake of two arrests — one for allegedly pointing a gun at three people in a Harrisburg, Pa., parking lot and another for suspicion of DUI and related charges.
Berry began the 2012 season unemployed as he served a three-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal-conduct policy. He then signed a two-year contract with the Jets on Oct. 1, 2012, allowing him to play for a coaching staff that included Pettine and new Browns defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil as well as join a roster that included Browns cornerback Isaiah Trufant.
“We recognize that he's had missteps, as does he,” Farmer said. “Before and after that adverse period in his life, members of our coaching staff and players in our locker room worked with Aaron. From a communication standpoint, there's a degree of comfort we have with him, and a degree of comfort he'll have with the Browns. He has a chance to earn the opportunity to contribute to any success we'll have this fall.”
The Browns hope Berry can return to the form he displayed in 2011. He started three of the 11 games in which he appeared for the Lions and had 31 tackles and 11 passes defensed.
Berry started four of the 19 games in which he has appeared since entering the NFL in 2010, when he signed with the Lions as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Pittsburgh. He has the potential to become a special-teams contributor for the Browns and add depth to their secondary if he can stay healthy and out of trouble.