BEREA: As the Browns ended their voluntary minicamp Thursday and looked to the future with next week’s NFL Draft, two of their prominent defensive players — nose tackle Phil Taylor and cornerback Joe Haden, who are dealing with contract issues, remain focused on the present.
Taylor’s situation is more pressing. The Browns have until Saturday to pick up his fifth-year option, which would guarantee him two more seasons with the team at a cost of $5.5 million in 2015.
Taylor said that he doesn’t know what General Manager Ray Farmer is thinking and he hasn’t heard anything about what the Browns will do — even with that deadline looming.
“I have no idea. I’m just out here playing football. When I hear the word from upstairs that’s when I’ll know,” he said after the team’s final practice.
Taylor said on multiple occasions that he wants to be in Cleveland, and he won’t cause a disruption for the Browns if they don’t pick up his option.
“I’m still going to go out there and do what I’ve got to do for the team,” he said. “I’m still a Cleveland Brown and I’m going to be a Cleveland Brown until I’m not.
“I’m just blessed to be in this situation that I’m in right now. I’m going to let God and upstairs work it out. So whatever decisions they make, you’ve got to live with it.”
Coach Mike Pettine said it’s not a matter of whether the 6-foot-3, 335-pound lineman fits the defense he plans to implement.
“Phil’s explosive. He has some pass rush ability, yet he’s solid enough to be at the point of attack so absolutely he’s a fit for us.” Pettine said.
Ultimately, the decision belongs to Farmer, he said.
What might be contributing significantly to the decision is that Taylor played on 50.5 percent of defensive plays last season, according to ProFootballFocus.com.
Taylor said he isn’t allowing the situation to bother him.
“You’re not supposed to let it affect you because if you let it affect you then it affects the team and then [people say], ‘Oh, he’s worried about his contract, not the team,’ ” Taylor said. “It’s team first. I’ll let the contract situation play out how it plays out.”
Pettine hasn’t seen anything in Taylor’s attitude to make him worry.
“It hasn’t occurred yet so I’m not going to deal in a hypothetical situation, but that’s something you certainly take into account when you have those option years,” Pettine said.
Haden faces a similar situation as his rookie contract, which pays him $6.67 million this season, ends after this year. Negotiations have been ongoing, he said. It seems obvious that both he and the Browns want a deal.
“I’d like to get it done,” Haden said. “I’d like to get it done as soon as possible, but we’re still working on it.”
But does he consider the current status a distraction?
“It’s not a distraction. I’m just trying to [play] ball,” Haden said. “The business thing, it is a business and everybody has to understand that, too. “The team wants to do what they got to do. Players are going to do what they want to do, so I’m just trying to [play] ball right now. I’ve got a really good agent and he’s handling that part.”
More than once, Pettine mentioned that the coaching staff would like to see Barkevious Mingo bulk up.
Added weight for Mingo, a 6-4, 240-pound linebacker, could help in shedding blockers who often top out at more than 300 pounds.
He doesn’t view his weight as a problem.
“I guess it’s like last year,” Mingo said. “I’m not going to discuss my weight. I’m comfortable where I’m at and the coaches are comfortable where I’m at. We’ll leave it at that. The coaches are happy.”
In that respect, coach and player appear to be at odds.
“I wouldn’t say there’s a disconnect,” Pettine said. “We’re not going to try to artificially blow him up. But at the same time, we want to have him on a program where he is, between lifting and natural intake of the diet that he’s on, that it’ll just happen.
“It’ll just occur; it’ll be a gradual thing. It doesn’t have to be overnight. I just think it’s the natural maturation process of his second year in the NFL.”
Scanning the O-line
Paul McQuistan, a 6-6, 315-pound offensive lineman, spent the minicamp working at left guard between tackle Joe Thomas and center Alex Mack. Last year’s starting left guard, 6-4, 318-pound John Greco, worked at right guard.
They might remain at those spots, but Pettine said this week gives them the opportunity to press the reset button on the roster as the team looks forward.
“We’ll go ahead and grade each player now just like we would grade a guy we were evaluating as a free agent and then redo our depth chart and then kind of see where we are moving forward,” he said.
But it also gives Farmer another tool because resetting the roster will be completed prior to the draft.
“I think that will help us with Ray moving forward going into the draft to kind of get another snapshot of what our roster looks like at the moment,” Pettine said.
After being asked about the Atlanta Falcons’ reported efforts to move up in the draft, Pettine said he wouldn’t be surprised if the Browns heard from other teams wanting to move up to get the team’s No. 4 pick, especially those in the top 10, but he deferred to Farmer.
“I know the phones have been ringing off the hook. I just think all the teams in the top have really talked,” he said, “and I know that they’ve always been a franchise that’s been, especially recently, active as far as moving up.”
Move it back
Listening to sports talk and reading articles on the Internet, many football fans lament the additional two-week wait to get to the draft. Count Pettine and Browns left tackle Joe Thomas among them.
Because he was the last new coach hired, Pettine initially thought the change helped.
“It’s tough waiting this long because then it kind of pushes everything back towards the summer, your rookie camp’s pushed back, all those things,” he said. “I think the general consensus of coaches I’ve talked to is we’d prefer it to be back in April.”
Thomas said he’d rather have had the rookies in minicamp. “Truth be told, the offseason is about getting rookies ready,” he said.
Wide receiver Nate Burleson was not at practice but Pettine said he is OK and discussed his absence with the team. ... Former running back Eric Metcalf will announce the Browns’ second-round draft pick May 9 from Radio City Music Hall, according to the NFL. ... NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock said the Browns could have interest in Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.