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Myles Garrett ready to 'lead the pack' after solidifying future in Cleveland with contract extension

Myles Garrett isn't viewing his contract extension solely as a reward for what he's done in his first three years with the Browns.

The five-year extension Garrett signed Wednesday is certainly well-earned — he's already seventh in franchise history with 30.5 career sacks — but Garrett, one of the best defensive ends in the league, doesn't think he's close to hitting the ceiling Cleveland saw when it drafted him No. 1 overall in 2017.

To Garrett, that's what the extension is for. He's 24 years old and has plenty of room to improve, and he's ready to prove it in a Browns uniform.

"I don't want to be the same player I was last year. I want to be better," Garrett said Thursday in a video call with local reporters. "I have a chance to solidify myself as one of the top two players in the league, and hopefully I'm not considered No. 2. I have that to prove next year, and we got to show that this talent can come together and win some big games."

Garrett was a frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year last season after he totaled 10 sacks in his first 10 games. His season was cut short due to suspension, but Garrett was on pace to break the franchise's single-season record of 14 sacks, set by Reggie Camp in 1984.

In his rookie season, Garrett made seven sacks — including a sack on his first professional snap — despite missing five games due to injuries. In 2018, Garrett played all 16 games and finished sixth in the league with 13.5 sacks. He's one of just a few NFL defenders who are practically shoe-ins to register double-digit sack totals every healthy season.

Add in the fact that Garrett is first in team history in sacks (30.5), QB hits (65) and tackles for a loss (32) for a player in their first three seasons, and it's easy to see why the Browns wanted to make Garrett the highest-paid defender in the league.

"We had always talked about doing (an extension) like this, even from my first year in the league," Garrett said. "They always had confidence in me and my abilities. They know I'm going to do my best to make it worth it for them. I'm going to make my friends and my family proud."

Garrett has openly yearned to win DPOY since the day he was drafted. To Garrett, that award has separated him a notch below players such as Aaron Donald, J.J. Watt and Khalil Mack, who have all won the award and cemented their names among the best defenders in recent history.

Garrett believes he'll be there soon. He's always been in the conversation since his first year in the league, but he's still an extraordinarily young talent. His season totals project to only rise, and if that happens, Garrett should have little trouble reaching that goal.

"I was in the Player of the Year conversation (last year)," Garrett said. "I don't want to make it a conversation anymore. This next year, I want to ball out and win that award. I want to take my team to the playoffs, and even higher than that."

The Browns certainly have the tools to do that. With Garrett now locked in as the cornerstone of its defense, Cleveland has a bright future with Pro Bowlers DT Sheldon Richardson, DE Olivier Vernon and CB Denzel Ward. S Grant Delpit, CB Greedy Williams and LBs Mack Wilson and Sione Takitaki, among others, are young players capable of being a part of the playoff push.

Garrett, however, is now the unquestioned leader. That's how he's viewing his contract extension, and he's eager to prove what's ahead will be exactly what the Browns envision.

"I like that the history is what it is because it'll make it so much sweeter when we turn this around and win big playoff games, and then finally get to that last one," Garrett said. "I'd like to be a part of that. I'd Iike to lead the pack for that. I want to lead them to that promised land."

Now, with his future set in Cleveland, he can.