Myles Garrett is one of the best defensive players in the NFL. The Cleveland Browns are giving him the chance to prove it. If Garrett proves the Browns right, that will give both the chance to put an ugly 2019 season in the rear-view mirror for good.
NFL.com reports that Garrett is close to a five-year, $125 million extension that would keep him in Cleveland through 2026. He would make more money than Chicago’s Khalil Mack.
Why would the Browns do that given Garrett’s history of roughing the passer calls and the ugly incident with Pittsburgh quarterback Mason Rudolph last season that led to a season-ending suspension?
Garrett is worth it. It’s a chance worth taking. Pro Football Focus pointed out that Garrett has the best pass-rush rate when lined up as an edge rusher.
Garrett gets home. He’s one of six NFL players who put up 10 or more sacks in each of the past two seasons. That list includes Aaron Donald (32.5 sacks since 2018), Chandler Jones (32), Danielle Hunter (29), T.J. Watt (27.5), Cameron Jordan (27.5) and Garrett (23.5).
Garrett is the youngest player of that group, at 24 years old, behind 25-year-old rushers in Hunter and Watt. Which one of those three would you want most over the next five years?
Garrett is the answer. He would be higher on that list if not for the suspension. He had 10 sacks in 10 games before hitting Rudolph with a helmet at the end of a 21-7 victory against Pittsburgh on Nov. 14, 2019. Garrett was reinstated after the season, and that ugly chapter of his career appears to be over.
At least that’s what the Browns are saying with this contract. Cleveland is betting on the game-changing defensive end entering his prime — not the final act in last year’s three-ring circus under Freddie Kitchens.
But Garrett needs to be better. He was fined more than $40,000 for two roughing the passer penalties against the Jets last season. The reputation as a dirty player will stick — unless Garrett becomes a Hall of Fame-caliber player instead.
The opportunity is there. The Browns have a new front office, a new head coach in Kevin Stefanski and the same talented roster that should be competitive in the AFC North.
That is where this contract comes into play. Garrett must the be the leader of a defense for a franchise that is starving for its first playoff berth since 2002. Cleveland likely will take care of fellow former No. 1 pick Baker Mayfield behind that, and those two players will define whether the Browns will be contenders or preseason pretenders in a division that Baltimore, Pittsburgh and even Cincinnati won multiples times in the past decade.
The Ravens have reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson, and the Bengals drafted Joe Burrow with the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Pittsburgh will have a plan in place for two-time Super Bowl winner Ben Roethlisberger in the near future.
That’s an impressive list of quarterbacks.
It’s good to have one of the best defensive players coming off the edge after them.
Even better if Garrett is the best defensive player until 2026.
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