B.J. Goodson knew exactly what he was signing up for when he decided to join the Browns on a one-year deal in March.
Goodson, a four-year veteran, obviously would receive a chance to start with Cleveland and create an opportunity for a longer stay with the Browns beyond 2020.
He was also cognizant that, at age 26, he'll be the oldest and most experienced linebacker the Browns have on their roster.
That means he needs to be a mentor, regardless of the amount of playing time he'll receive.
"To get these guys better, including myself," Goodson said Thursday in a Zoom call with local reporters. It was a quick answer, too. Goodson didn't hesitate to put his mentorship role first when he was asked about his goals for next season.
"It's for us to be the best linebacking core across the league," he said. "That's my job, and that's why they brought me here. I'm looking forward to that and the talent."
The Browns linebackers have plenty of work to do if they want to attain that goal, but there's no shortage of promise. The group also includes 2019 draft picks Mack Wilson and Sione Takitaki and Jacob Phillips, a 2020 third-round pick. Each of them have a shot to be a Week 1 starter, but the youth is evident — the oldest player of the trio is Takitaki, and he's only 24.
Check out photos of linebacker B.J. Goodson
It's one of the youngest linebacker rooms in the NFL, and from an experience perspective, Goodson is at the top of the totem pole. In 52 career games, he's made 160 tackles and two interceptions. Last season, he played in 15 games with the Green Bay Packers and recorded 37 tackles.
Goodson knows it won't just be linebackers coach Jason Tarver in charge of guiding the group. Tarver needs Goodson, too, and Goodson is ready to help in any way he can.
"That leadership role is something that you just inherit," Goodson said. "It is something that I am definitely looking forward to being an addition there for those guys."
The middle linebacker spot is Goodson's preferred position. It's where his skills have shined best in his career thus far, and it's also where he can be most effective as a communicator and mentor to the young talent around him at the position.
If Goodson is the starting middle linebacker in Week 1, he'll likely have two other linebackers around him as part of defensive coordinator Joe Woods' 4-3 scheme. The Mike position requires a leader — they're typically in charge of lining up teammates in the box — and that's why Goodson prefers it over the outside spots.
"It is where I see myself playing," he said. "I love the middle linebacker spot. To be able to call it and to be able to be on both sides on multiple plays, I love playing in the middle."
Goodson's role in the defense, however, is not solidified. He still has to earn a starting position, and there's a chance that one of the young players stands out in training camp and becomes the Week 1 starter.
That won't faze Goodson, though. He said the only competition he views is with himself. He's intricate in breaking his own game down and finding ways to get better.
"I compete with myself. That is my biggest opponent," Goodson said. "I compete with myself every single day. I know guys use that and say that a lot. The way that I visualize the game mentally and the way that I prepare for the game mentally, I go at myself a lot and dig into myself a lot."
For the next year, though, Goodson is also ready to dig into the other linebackers in the room.
Being a mentor isn't something Goodson, a fourth-round pick in 2016, has needed to do before, but he knew it was a requirement when he signed his name on a new contract at the beginning of the offseason.
There's a lot of work left, but Goodson's focus is sharp, and his goals are high.
"It was just a great opportunity here in Cleveland," Goodson said. "I definitely wanted to be here. The opportunity is a great one. That is just kind of how I saw that."