BEREA: With great money comes great responsibility in the NFL — at least that’s how Browns cornerback Joe Haden sees things.
On Monday, Haden agreed to a five-year, $68 million contract extension that includes $45 million in guarantees to become the highest-paid cornerback in the league. Now he feels an obligation to live up to that lofty financial status.
“This contract only makes me feel like now I have to play like the best corner in the league,” Haden said during a news conference Tuesday at Browns headquarters.
Haden follows center Alex Mack as the second veteran player that the Browns locked up to long-term contracts this offseason.
Haden has come a long way since being suspended four games for testing positive for Adderall, a stimulant, in 2012. He acknowledged that marriage and faith have helped calm him down.
“It’s just the outside distractions,” he said. “A lot of that stuff can get you mixed up when you first come in and you’re making a lot of money and things are going all good. You can lose sight. You know what I’m saying? I think I have my priorities in order and that really helps me out.”
On several occasions since arriving in Cleveland, coach Mike Pettine has said that quarterback and cornerback are two of the team’s most important positions.
“Defense is obviously something we’re going to pride ourselves on,” Pettine said. “It’s going to be a cornerstone of this franchise moving forward. We feel we’ve taken a huge step in securing that in getting Joe locked up long term.”
Haden’s deal comes a little more than a week after the Seattle Seahawks’ Richard Sherman signed a four-year, $57 million extension.
Haden said the timing of his signing is a coincidence. He said he believes he’s in the same company as Sherman.
“I would put myself up there ever since Day One,” he said. “When you don’t win as many games, you don’t really get the recognition. But it’s all good. Once you have good coaches behind you and your teammates behind you and you have the organization behind you, that’s all that really matters at the end of the day.”
Haden, 5-foot-11 and 198 pounds, earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl last season and the Associated Press named him second-team All-Pro.
He intercepted four passes and made 60 tackles. Quarterbacks were hesitant to throw to his side of the field. But the efforts come off the field, as well, as he’s made it known that he appreciates Northeast Ohio.
“The fans are great. I just never wanted to bail out. I started here,” Haden said. “They drafted me. Actually, the fan base is one big part because the way they feel about the team and the Browns. I feel if we can really start winning here, there’s no other place I’d rather play if we can get this organization turned around. It would be the best.”
With that sentiment comes a belief that the Browns’ front office is finally turning things around. Haden likes Pettine and he likes the new defense.
The front office continues to build momentum after signing safety Donte Whitner, a Cleveland native, and linebacker Karlos Dansby as free agents.
“It’s a whole different feel from top down,” Haden said. “They’re bringing in a whole different feel just as far as trying to swipe away everything that was going on in the past, and, you know, just the way the Browns are kind of looked at. They’re just trying to eliminate that. They have a whole new identity.”
Haden said that drafting cornerback Justin Gilbert in the first round of last week’s NFL Draft certainly helps. He said the former Oklahoma State star was his favorite defensive back coming out of college.
“He turns the ball over. He’s able to get the ball back to the offense,” Haden said. “He’s very, very athletic and with his return skills when he gets the ball in his hands, he’s automatically ready to get to the end zone and I’m really glad that we got him. He’s just got to come out here and learn and work hard and he can definitely be a big part of helping the team.”
Haden said that Gilbert can also help him improve his game.
“I think it will improve a lot,” he said. “My whole thing is I don’t feel like I’ve peaked at all. I think I can get so much better.”
He said he will have to lead by example, showing teammates how to work, and he will have expectations of them.
“I feel like I just got to grind, and when I’m at practice with the [defensive backs], they’re going to see how hard I work,” he said. “And there should be no reason why nobody shouldn’t work as hard as I am.”
That didn’t take long
First-round draft pick Johnny Manziel has landed his first Sports Illustrated cover as a member of the Browns.
It’s a regional cover, but, hey, it still counts. It leads into a story by Mark Bechtel with a headline reading: “Johnny Better Be Good.”
Before Johnny Football
According to CBS’ Jason La Canfora, the Browns might not have ended up with Manziel. Before drafting the Texas A&M quarterback, the team made a play for Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins by offering them a fourth-round draft pick.
Apparently, Redskins starter Robert Griffin III wants Cousins gone and Cousins, who played at Michigan State, wants to be gone, according to the report. Ultimately, Redskins General Manager Bruce Allen turned the deal down.
The Browns invited fullback Eric Kettani to this week’s rookie minicamp, according to the National Football Post.
A native of Kirtland, Kettani played for Mentor Lake Catholic High School and Navy. He most recently was on the Kansas City Chiefs roster, but also had experience with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan at the Redskins. The Chiefs released him this week.
Glenn to join Browns
The New York Daily News reported that the Browns have hired former New York Jets defensive back Aaron Glenn as a coach.
Currently a Jets scout, Glenn will leave to join the Browns as an assistant defensive backs coach. A three-time Pro-Bowl selection, he spent eight seasons with the Jets, Houston Texans, Dallas Cowboys, Jacksonville Jaguars and New Orleans Saints and has 41 career interceptions.
He played 15 years in the NFL and has been a Jets scout since 2012 when Pettine served as defensive coordinator for the Jets.
George M. Thomas can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Zips blog at www.ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/abj.sports.