Defensive end Jayme Mitchell agreed to a two-year contract to return to the Browns. He is in line to become a starter.
Five more draft picks reached deals, according to multiple reports. All but first-rounder Phil Taylor were in the fold on the day the players were required to report to training camp.
Cornerback Eric Wright turned down an offer from the Browns to accept a one-year deal from the Detroit Lions.
The Browns got some business done Friday, as the flurry of reported transactions could become official for the first time since the lockout ended Monday, according to NFL rules. However, the Browns refused to announce any roster moves.
They are expected to put out an extensive list this morning before the first practice of the Pat Shurmur era. The practice is not open to fans. The first public practice is Sunday from 8:45-11:15 a.m.
Mitchell had been a target of Browns general manager Tom Heckert since before the lockout. Heckert traded an undisclosed 2012 draft pick to Minnesota during last season for Mitchell, but he was a healthy inactive for all 12 games.
Heckert couldn’t understand why then-coach Eric Mangini wouldn’t play him, believing he could be effective rushing the passer. Mitchell (6-foot-6, 285 pounds) played 29 games in three-plus years with the Vikings with no starts, 29 tackles and five sacks.
Mitchell joins safety Usama Young and running back Brandon Jackson as the unrestricted free agents reportedly signed by Cleveland.
While much of the league spent the week in a sprint to sign the biggest names available, Heckert stuck to his plan to be selective and not rush into bad decisions.
Taylor, a defensive tackle from Baylor selected No. 21, was in town and tweeted about the lack of a deal: “Dam. Lockout is over. Contract can’t be that hard. Lol.”
Taylor’s agent, Peter Schaeffer, didn’t return a message. The new agreement between owners and players restricts the money that can be spent on rookies and discourages holdouts. The issue with Taylor may be the number of guaranteed years in the four-year contract, with Taylor looking for all four and the Browns holding out for fewer.
Defensive end Jabaal Sheard and receiver Greg Little, second-round picks, reportedly agreed to contracts Thursday. Tight end Jordan Cameron (fourth round), fullback Owen Marecic (fourth), cornerback Buster Skrine (fifth), offensive lineman Jason Pinkston (fifth) and safety Eric Hagg (seventh) followed Friday.
Skrine’s importance likely increased with Wright’s departure. Joe Haden and Sheldon Brown are the starters, but there’s little depth behind them. Skrine could fill the nickelback role, but Heckert has repeatedly said you can’t have enough good corners.
Veteran Mike Adams is also in the mix, but he might be needed at safety, where T.J. Ward and Young (whose tweeted he officially signed) are the only other notables at the position.
Wright, a second-round pick in 2007, announced on Twitter early Friday morning that he was headed to Detroit. The Browns pursued Wright along with several other teams – Wright tweeted the number was 12 – but he wanted a fresh start and to prove his value.
“Much love to all my Cleveland supporters.. Thanks to the organization fa takin a chance on me.. I have a lotta love and respect fa the city,” he tweeted. He added later: “Lets get it goin Detroit!! Lets flip the script!! Lol have sum fun”
Wright gave up three touchdown passes to Baltimore’s Anquan Boldin in Week 3 last season and had a difficult time bouncing back. He became the object of scorn from the fans and said he received death threats. He also battled knee injuries at the end of the season and missed two games.
But Wright is talented and leaves a hole. Possible cornerback targets are Washington’s Carlos Rogers, Baltimore’s Chris Carr and Carolina’s Richard Marshall.
As the Browns basically stood on the sideline Friday, a number of players considered possibilities for them wound up elsewhere.
Safety Roman Harper re-signed with the Saints, safety Dawan Landry left Baltimore for Jacksonville and defensive tackle Brandon Mebane stayed in Seattle. The Browns were once believed to be in the mix for defensive end Ray Edwards, who left Minnesota for Atlanta, but Edwards’ agent told the Plain Dealer that the Browns never showed interest.
The Browns still need to add depth on both lines, and at linebacker.
Tight end Evan Moore officially signed his restricted free agent tender, he announced on Twitter.
Slot receiver Chansi Stuckey, acquired by Mangini in the Braylon Edwards trade in 2009, signed with Arizona, reportedly for two years and $3.5 million. He had 40 catches – best among Cleveland’s receivers – for 346 yards and no touchdowns in 2010.
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