BEREA — Joe Haden got excited when the Browns drafted quarterback Johnny Manziel.
It was nothing compared to the thrill, satisfaction and motivation he felt five days later when he signed a five-year, $68 million extension that will keep him in Cleveland through 2019.
“It’s crazy. It’s crazy,” Haden said Wednesday at a news conference to discuss the deal he inked Tuesday. “This is an unbelievable experience. I played ball my whole life to get to that point.
“When you get your rookie contract, it’s because of what you did in college. But when you get that second deal, it’s because of what you’ve been doing since you’ve been in the league, and it’s just something that it made me feel like the coaching staff believed in me, the owners believed in me and it just made me want to go harder.”
Haden, who turned 25 last month, said he always considered himself on the same level as Seattle’s Richard Sherman, New England’s Darrelle Revis and Arizona’s Patrick Peterson — the game’s top cornerbacks — even though he didn’t earn a trip to the Pro Bowl until last season. The contract supports his belief, and Haden said he won’t become complacent.
“My whole thing is I don’t feel like I’ve peaked at all,” he said. “This contract only makes me want to feel like now I have to play like the best corner in the league.”
Haden’s deal includes $22 million fully guaranteed and averages $13.6 million per year. Sherman signed a four-year, $57.4 million deal last week that pays him an average of $14.35 million.
“I would put myself up there ever since Day One,” Haden said of the upper echelon of corners. “When you don’t win as many games, you don’t really get the recognition. But it’s all good. Once you have good coaches behind you and your teammates behind you and you have the organization behind you, that’s all that really matters. And then once you get the contract, then everybody else seems to notice what was going on. But I put myself there the whole time.”
Browns Town has been overrun by Manziel Mania, and Haden is along for the ride.
“I was hyped,” Haden said of draft night. “You know me. I’m a little bit on the flashy side and I like that. I like that about him. I like that he has a personality.”
Haden quickly embraced Cleveland and its sports teams, earning him a special place in the hearts of fans. But he’s got some Hollywood in him and longs for the bright lights that Manziel will bring.
“We welcome all of that, man,” Haden said. “If you have Johnny Manziel, he brings all of that noise. You get more attention here. You get more people watching the Browns and all we’ve got to do now is just make noise and everybody is going to look good.
“That’s what happens when you win. So if we start winning, we’ll have that regardless.”
Haden wasn’t getting ahead of himself. He knows owner Jimmy Haslam and coach Mike Pettine want Manziel to come in with the status and humility of the backup to incumbent Brian Hoyer.
“I have faith in Hoyer,” Haden said. “At the end of the day, once you get onto the field, you’re going to see. If Johnny Manziel is playing better than Hoyer, he’ll be out there, he’ll be the leader. But if he’s not, then Hoyer will be our guy.
“The thing is, when you get to this level, it doesn’t really matter how much people hype you, how much people talk about you. It’s what you do on the field. It’s going to be competition, and I like it.”
Haden said he can’t imagine the attention Manziel lives with on a daily basis and thinks entering as the backup will ease the pressure a bit.
“At the end of the day, Manziel is going to be Manziel when he gets out on the field,” Haden said. “And I think that’s what’s going to show.
“And the same thing with Hoyer. He’s not giving up the spot. I’m just happy because you have Hoyer that wants to be a quarterback and Manziel with all the hype. But when you’re on the field, everybody is going to see what’s going on and it’s not like anybody’s given a free spot. You have to earn it, you have to win it.”
The Browns feel Haden has earned the big money. The No. 7 pick in the 2010 draft has played in 57 games with 48 starts, totaling 13 interceptions, 68 passes defensed, 263 tackles, three forced fumbles, two sacks and a fumble recovery.
“He’s the right guy,” general manager Ray Farmer said. “It’s the right time and everything we talk about, about playing like a Brown, he displays those attributes.”
First-year coach Mike Pettine, who will call the defensive signals, builds his system around cornerbacks he can trust to shut down the opponents’ best receivers.
“Defense is obviously something we’re going to pride ourselves on,” Pettine said. “It’s going to be a cornerstone of this franchise moving forward. We feel we’ve taken a huge step in securing that in getting Joe locked up long term. I couldn’t be more thrilled and I know our defensive coaches were all fired up when they got the news.
“It was something from Day One after we watched the film and got a chance to be around Joe and see his passion for the game, and how important it was and how much he loves being here in Cleveland, loves being a Brown and that’s infectious. It was something we put on the to-do list early on and we’re thrilled to be able to get it crossed off.”
Haden was suspended for four games in 2012 for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy. He blamed it on Adderall, a stimulant used to treat ADHD.
Haden said he’s matured since then, crediting his wife and religious devotion. He was asked about receiver Josh Gordon, who reportedly could face an indefinite suspension for failing a marijuana test.
“You just have to love up on Josh,” Haden said. “We don’t really know what the situation is right now. I just saw him a couple of times in passing but he knows that the team loves him. If he needs somebody to talk to, we’ll definitely be here to talk to him.”
Haden said his first priority for the newfound wealth, which includes a $14 million signing bonus, was to expand his epic shoe collection. He and his wife, who watched the news conference from the side of the room, have made a life in Northeast Ohio.
“I love Cleveland,” Haden said. “I really like it here. I enjoy it here. The fans are great.
“I just never wanted to bail out. I started here. They drafted me. Actually the fan base is one big part. Because the way they feel about the team and the Browns, I feel if we can really start winning here, there’s no other place I’d rather play if we can get this organization turned around. It would be the best.”