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Myles Garrett cements future as cornerstone of Browns defense with contract extension

When the Browns selected Myles Garrett with their first overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, they expected him to become a foundational piece capable of helping them build a dynamic defense. 

They believed Garrett could stay in Cleveland for years to come. They believed he could make a run at franchise records. They believed he could be one of the best defensive players to ever don orange and brown.

Garrett, of course, had those visions for himself, too.

"I want to be the best," he said in his first ever interview as a Brown. "They picked me because they think they see something in me, and they know that I can help them rebuild and turn this program around."

Three years into his career, Garrett has proved he can live up to that vision.

That's why the Browns signed Garrett to a five-year contract extension Wednesday and made him the highest-paid defensive player in the league. Cleveland will be home to Garrett's dominance and record-breaking potential through 2026, and his presence alone will make the Browns defense difficult to prepare for an opposing quarterback every Sunday.

"I think it's really important for us as an organization to cement Myles' status here for a really long time," coach Kevin Stefanski said. "It was a prudent decision on (Executive Vice President and general manager) Andrew Berry's part and Myles' part to keep Myles here for many productive seasons."

At 24 years old, Garrett is already one of the best defensive players to ever play in Cleveland.

He's seventh in franchise history with 30.5 sacks after only three seasons in the league. In 2018, he made 13.5 sacks, one sack away from breaking the Browns' all-time sacks record. In 2019, he accrued 10 sacks and was on pace to break the team record, but his season was shortened to 10 games.

The Browns have waited decades to corral a player as talented as Garrett. Just one player on Cleveland's top-10 sack list, Clay Matthews Jr., has spent more than six years with the franchise. By the time Garrett's newest contract ends, his sack total could be well beyond the total from Matthews, who recorded 62 sacks in Cleveland.

For the Browns, Garrett is not just simply a player capable of wreaking havoc in the backfield every week — he's a player that can help make an entire defense great.

"He's as disruptive as they come," Stefanski said. "He's big, long, fast, quick and has a motor. He checks all the boxes. I think he fits so perfectly into what we want to be schematically in terms of getting off the football and being in attack mode for 60 minutes."

Since they drafted Garrett, the Browns have attempted to support him with talent across the defense. CB Denzel Ward, DT Sheldon Richardson and DE Olivier Vernon are all Pro-Bowl caliber players capable of taking the Browns defense to the upper ranks of the league. CB Greedy Williams, S Grant Delpit and LBs Mack Wilson and Sione Takitaki, among others, are promising young players who could thrive with Garrett as a teammate.

The core component, however, has always been Garrett. He's been the top threat on the Browns defense the moment Roger Goodell took the podium in Philadelphia and announced his arrival to Cleveland. Since his first game in a Browns jersey, quarterbacks have feared the damage that Garrett, at an imposing 6-foot-4 and 270-pounds, is capable of doing to their passing attack each week.

"We'll have to keep an eye on him," Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said before his first meeting with Garrett in 2018. "Two eyes on him."

The Browns believe the most talented version of Garrett has yet to come. He appears to become a faster, yet bulkier player before every season, and there has yet to be a training camp in Berea where Garrett isn't wowing coaches and spectators for his ability to reach the backfield at such a quick and consistent pace.

Stefanski expects to have the same reaction when he sees Garrett on a field for the first time as his coach. Now that Garrett is extended, Stefanski's job of building a powerful defense each year just became much easier.

"He's young," Stefanski said, "and I can't wait to get our hands on him and put him in this scheme and let him loose."