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Guard Joel Bitonio strikes deal with Browns on rookie contract

By Nate Ulrich Published: June 22, 2014

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Five down, one to go.

Rookie guard Joel Bitonio agreed to terms with the Browns today on his rookie contract, the team announced. The Browns selected Bitonio in the second round (No. 35 overall) of last month’s NFL Draft out of the University of Nevada.

Rookie cornerback Justin Gilbert (first round, No. 8) is now the only member of the franchise’s 2014 draft class who has yet to reach a deal. In addition to Bitonio, quarterback Johnny Manziel (first round, No. 22), linebacker Christian Kirksey (third round, No. 71), running back Terrance West (third round, No. 94) and cornerback Pierre Desir (fourth round, No. 127) have wrapped up their deals well before the first full-squad practice of training camp July 26.

Bitonio’s four-year deal is worth $5.46 million and includes a signing bonus of $2.29 million and 4.29 million guaranteed, according to Spotrac.com. The contract is worth an average of $1.36 million per year.

Lining up at left guard, Bitonio had been the only rookie receiving consistent reps with the first-team offense in spring practices until he suffered a sprained ankle June 3 during organized team activities. Bitonio sat out mandatory minicamp the following week, but coach Mike Pettine expects him back in action soon.

“I know that he’ll be ready to go Day One of training camp,” Pettine said June 10.

The Browns’ brass praised Bitonio throughout the spring. He has been pegged as the starting left guard, provided he can stay healthy. Veteran John Greco is likely the favorite to start at right guard, though he would need to hold off challengers Garrett Gilkey and Paul McQuistan.

The 6-foot-4, 305-pound Bitonio is viewed as an ideal fit for offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme because of his quickness off the ball and the agility he displays while moving down the line laterally.

Bitonio appeared in 51 games at Nevada, starting the final 38. He made 26 starts at right tackle before starting all 12 games at left tackle as a senior. He was credited with allowing just two sacks on 821 passing attempts.

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