BEREA: As Jayme Mitchell unpacked his belongings in the Browns’ locker room in October, he appeared to be stunned and confused.
The Minnesota Vikings had just traded him to the Browns, and he had no idea how he would fit in a defense that was foreign to him. In the end, he never did.
Even though the Browns employed a 3-4 defense under former coach Eric Mangini, General Manager Tom Heckert traded a late-round draft pick in exchange for the 6-foot-6, 285-pound Mitchell, a prototypical 4-3 defensive end, heading into Week 5. After the move was made, Mangini told reporters Mitchell could potentially be used as an outside linebacker, but it didn’t happen. Mitchell was inactive for the team’s 12 remaining games.
Despite not being used, Mitchell began to develop a feeling that he could be part of the franchise’s future. He saw changes on the horizon, and he thought he could benefit from them.
“Late, late, late into the season, yeah, I did sense it a little bit,” Mitchell said. “You could just feel it in the air, just being intuitive. [There were] a few comments by a few assistant coaches, so the writing was on the wall.”
Now a new coaching regime is in place, and Mitchell is in an entirely different situation. The Browns re-signed Mitchell on Monday with the intent of making him the starting left end in their new 4-3 defense.
“To Eric’s credit, [Mitchell is] not a fit for a 3-4,” Heckert said. “But Eric and I talked about that, and I’m not putting blame on Eric. … It wasn’t a fit and we knew that and we made the trade anyway, so whether that was a smart move or not, I don’t know. I think it is now because we still have him. If we would have lost him, then it would have been a stupid trade.”
Language in the NFL’s new labor deal has prevented Mitchell (and other veteran players who have recently signed) from practicing until the start of the new league year, which will happen at 4:01 p.m. today as long as a new collective bargaining agreement is in place. The Browns were originally scheduled to practice from 8:45-11:15 a.m. today, but they changed the time to 4:10-6 p.m., so Mitchell and Co. could join the action sooner than later.
“I’m very eager,” Mitchell said. “It’s been awhile since I’ve put the pads on and got at it. I’m ready to get in there and get the kinks out of the way, get the rust off and just go to work.”
Mitchell, 27, is the oldest among the Browns’ projected starting defensive linemen. Ahtyba Rubin, 25, and rookie Phil Taylor, 23, are the tackles. Rookie Jabaal Sheard, 22, is the other end.
“I’m excited about the whole situation,” Mitchell said. “I’m excited about the opportunity to get out here and contribute to the Browns winning and just bringing the young guys along, just showing them different ways to do different things and how to get production from this season.”
The Browns are confident Mitchell can help them win, even though he has only played in 29 games and never started. He has compiled just 29 tackles and five sacks in his five-year professional career.
“He looks like a true defensive end,” Heckert said. “And I think he can play the run. I think he can rush the passer. The situation [he was in with the Vikings] was way different than the situation here. He [was] playing behind some pretty good players there. So I think that was probably most of the reason why he didn’t play there, because they liked him. The tape that I saw on him, I thought he was a really good player. So hopefully I was right. He’s going to get a chance to prove it, so he better prove me right.”
Mitchell has heard the message loud and clear. He’s relieved to finally get his big break in the NFL, but he also realizes a new level of responsibility comes with it.
“It’s sort of a sense of relief, but there’s also a sense of urgency to produce,” Mitchell said. “Pressure comes with it. It’s not unwanted pressure, and it’s just something that I’m gonna take head on and just give it my all.”
The Browns signed punter Richmond McGee on Wednesday to replace Reggie Hodges, the team announced.
Hodges suffered a season-ending torn left Achilles’ tendon on Tuesday. He was placed on injured reserve Wednesday.
The Browns held a tryout for punters Wednesday at their training facility. McGee, 28, who was waived by the Chicago Bears on Monday, emerged as Hodges’ successor.
The team’s signing of cornerback Dimitri Patterson, who was an unrestricted free agent, also became official. Patterson spent the past two years with the Philadelphia Eagles and started nine games last season. He is expected to help compensate for the departure of cornerback Eric Wright, who recently signed with the Detroit Lions.
The Browns also signed undrafted free-agent linebackers Archie Donald and Eric Gordon. They waived linebackers Derrick Addai and Alex Wujciak.
The Browns did not practice Wednesday. The team will hold a walk-through session from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. today. The walk through will be closed to the public. However, practice from 4:10-6 p.m. today will be open to the public. … Mangini agreed to become an ESPN studio football analyst, the New York Post reported Wednesday. … The Houston Texans signed former Browns fullback Lawrence Vickers. … The San Francisco 49ers signed former Browns special-teams ace Blake Costanzo.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://browns.ohio.com. Follow the Browns on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ABJ_Browns and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/browns.abj.