CLEVELAND: Barkevious Mingo spent an hour chasing kids, lofting passes toward them and playing the part of a tackling dummy during a youth football camp Tuesday morning at FirstEnergy Stadium.
He did it all with an infectious smile on his face, exchanging high-fives, signaling touchdowns and shouting words of encouragement. The sixth overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft resembled an oversized middle-school student on a playground.
Browns media relations coordinator Dan Murphy, though, voiced concern as Mingo and other rookies repeatedly fell backward and crashed to the ground while allowing campers aged 7-12 to launch into them. Murphy wisely ordered Mingo and Co. to hold real tackling dummies for the kids instead of risking a freak injury.
Mingo immediately understood why he was told to cease and desist, but for a moment, he had a mild look of disappointment on his face. He was simply having fun — without a worry in the world — during his first trip to the stadium.
Mingo, 22, is approaching his transition to the NFL with a similar carefree attitude.
Switching from defensive end at Louisiana State University to outside linebacker in defensive coordinator Ray Horton’s 3-4, multi-front scheme could be daunting. But not in Mingo’s eyes.
“I think I’m doing a great job at it, learning the coverages, responsibilities as an outside linebacker,” said Mingo, who’s aiming to earn a starting job after practicing primarily with the second-team defense so far this offseason. “I thought it was going to be 10 times worse, but it’s really been a smooth transition, and I’m enjoying it.”
The Browns might ask the 6-foot-4, 237-pound Mingo to gain weight as he adjusts to the professional level. Coach Rob Chudzinski said the team would give Mingo a target weight for training camp, which begins July 25, but Mingo said that hasn’t happened yet.
Mingo is willing to bulk up. Still, he’s not fretting over his weight because he’s convinced he can excel at 237 pounds.
“I’ve talked to coach [Brad] Roll,” Mingo said. “He’s our strength coach. He told me I’m fine where I’m at. As long as I’m doing everything I need to do, I’m good.”
Mingo isn’t losing any sleep over finalizing his rookie contract, either. He’s confident he’ll sign early enough to be at training camp on time.
“I don’t see why not,” Mingo said. “I’ll be there.”
Since the rookie wage scale went into effect in 2011, the signing of draft picks has been streamlined. For example, cornerback Morris Claiborne, the sixth overall pick in last year’s draft, signed a four-year, $16.26 million rookie contract with the Dallas Cowboys, so Mingo is in line to receive a similar deal from the Browns.
But there is still a sticking point for players picked at the top of the draft, and it’s whether their contracts will contain offset language.
Teams prefer offset language because it allows them to avoid paying a drafted player the full remainder of his salary in the unlikely event he is cut before the expiration of his rookie deal and signs with another team. Players don’t want offset language because it eliminates the possibility that they could be paid in full by the team that drafted them, plus receive whatever salary another team gives them.
Last year, the Miami Dolphins selected quarterback Ryan Tannehill eighth overall, and he became the only top-nine pick from his draft class to sign a deal containing offset language, according to ProFootballTalk.com.
“I think it’s something that’s important,” Browns General Manager Mike Lombardi said of offset language last month at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Luncheon Club in Canton. “I think Miami last year was the only team that got it. But I think it’s important.”
Only one top-10 pick in this year’s draft class, Detroit Lions defensive end Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah, has signed thus far, so it’s still early. Ansah’s deal reportedly excludes offset language.
In addition to the Dolphins (No. 3 overall pick, defensive end Dion Jordan), the Philadelphia Eagles (No. 4, offensive tackle Lane Johnson) and Browns (No. 6, Mingo) are expected to push for offset language this year, ProFootballTalk.com reported. Citing a source, the website explained the Browns hope to delay signing Mingo until others in the top 10 are under contract, so they can find out how many teams obtain offset language.
Mingo, however, isn’t anxious about the possibility of a delayed deal.
“It’s not on my radar,” Mingo said. “I haven’t even considered it. I’m pretty sure they’ll have a deal done in a timely fashion. Whenever they’re ready, me and my guys are ready. So it’s that kind of thing.”
Once Mingo signs, he plans to buy his mother, Barbara Johnson, a new house in Louisiana and a home for himself in Northeast Ohio.
In the meantime, he’s not going to sweat it. Or anything else for that matter.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.