By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
As rookies reported to training camp Friday, the Browns announced they signed two of their picks from this year’s draft — cornerback Leon McFadden and defensive end Armonty Bryant — to four-year contracts.
Now outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo, the sixth overall selection from Louisiana State University, is the only unsigned player from the organization’s five-member draft class.
Because of the rookie wage scale, Mingo is due to receive a deal similar to the four-year, $16.26 million contract Dallas Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne, the sixth overall pick in the 2012 draft, signed last year. But the hold up on Mingo’s deal, like with many top-10 picks, is still about whether the contract will contain offset language, a league source said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the negotiations.
Some teams push for offset language because it would keep them from 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. In turn, agents resist offset language on behalf of their clients because it would eliminate the possibility that a player could be paid in full by the team that drafted him, plus receive whatever salary another team would give him.
The Browns won’t hold their first full-squad practice of training camp until Thursday, so Mingo still has time to sign without missing anything of much significance.
McFadden and Bryant, of course, no longer need to worry about the possibility of a delayed start.
It’s important for the 5-foot-9, 193-pound McFadden, a third-round pick from San Diego State, to be at camp from the beginning because he’ll need to gain ground to emerge from his position battle victorious. The Browns hope McFadden can rise to the occasion and win the starting job opposite cornerback Joe Haden, but he spent the spring practicing with the second-team defense while Chris Owens and Buster Skrine shared reps with the first unit.
“Those guys [Owens and Skrine] are technically vets in the game, and they’re both good players,” McFadden said last month during a youth football clinic at FirstEnergy Stadium. “They’re competing for that No. 1 spot just as well. At the end of the day, when the season starts, we’ll find out [who will start].”
McFadden started 45 of the 51 games in which he appeared at San Diego State, compiling 188 tackles, including three sacks, a school-record 39 passes defensed, eight interceptions and a forced fumble.
Reporting to camp on time was also vital for the 6-4, 265-pound Bryant, a seventh-round pick from East Central University, because he’s trying to make amends. Bryant pleaded no contest to driving under the influence May 3 in Ada, Okla., less than a week after the Browns drafted him April 27. The incident came on the heels of Bryant’s arrest in October for selling $20 of marijuana twice to an undercover police officer.
Despite his history of off-field issues, the Browns have stuck with Bryant. Last month during the NFL Rookie Symposium, Bryant said he was determined to reward the team for showing faith in him and insisted he hadn’t used drugs or alcohol since his most recent arrest.
“[I’m] walking on thin ice,” Bryant said. “You can’t make any more mistakes. The organization gave me another opportunity, and I’m appreciative of it. I’m just trying to get better.
“When I look at everything and I think about the consequences of everything, just one drink could just throw it all away. It’s not worth it, honestly. So I’ve learned, and I’m trying to move on, and I’m trying not to make the same mistakes.”
In three seasons at East Central, Bryant appeared in 30 career games and registered 165 tackles, a school-record 27½ sacks, nine forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, one interception and nine blocked kicks. But coming from a Division II school, Bryant is considered a long shot to make the 53-man roster on a team with a stacked defensive line.
“[The defensive line is] pretty deep, but you never know,” Bryant said. “We’ll see what happens when the preseason is over. I’m pretty confident in my ability, but it’s all up to Coach, honestly, about what’s the best fit for this team. I 100 percent understand.”
In addition to McFadden and Bryant, the Browns have two other picks from this year’s draft — free safety Jamoris Slaughter, a sixth-round choice from Notre Dame, and guard Garrett Gilkey, a seventh-round selection from Chadron State — under contract.
In other words, it’s four down, Mingo to go.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. 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.