CLEVELAND — Myles Garrett helped bring a work of art to downtown Cleveland.
He’s also planning to create a defensive masterpiece with his new teammates.
On Thursday afternoon, Garrett briefly discussed the moves general manager Andrew Berry has made this offseason in an effort to upgrade every level of a defense the Browns hope will be good enough to propel them to the Super Bowl. End Jadeveon Clowney and safety John Johnson III headline the list of six newcomers Berry has added to the defense since free agency began in mid-March.
“I think we can do a lot,” Garrett, an All-Pro end, said of the revamped defense. “I don’t know what we’re doing in the [April 29-May 1] draft. But with the pieces we have now, I think we’ll be very scary. So I’m looking forward to it, getting on the field, taking the ball away and putting it back in our offense’s hands.”
Garrett spoke in downtown Cleveland to commemorate the unveiling of a #VoicesofCLE public art installation he commissioned, an event attended by Browns coach Kevin Stefanski.
The “Cleveland is the Reason” mural by local artist Glen Infante was done in collaboration with the Downtown Cleveland Alliance, Destination Cleveland and the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission and features Cleveland icons of sports, culture and music. The artwork includes depictions of LeBron James, Machine Gun Kelly, Toni Morrison, Jim Brown and Tracy Chapman and adorns the Cleveland Visitors Center on Euclid Avenue.
“Cleveland is known for a lot of things, mostly sports and music, but we also wanted to make sure that people see that and know that we’re proud of the people who’ve shaped our city,” Infante said.
Garrett loves art, music and poetry, so the project is in his wheelhouse.
“I have a passion and compassion for people,” Garrett said, “so I just wanted to give everybody something to look at, they’ll smile upon when they come down the street and something that inspires them.”
Garrett, 25, wants to give Browns fans more reasons to celebrate, too. The team went 11-5 last season to make the playoffs for the first time in 18 years, then advanced to the divisional round for the first time in 26 years.
With Clowney joining Garrett, the Browns will have the No. 1 overall picks from the 2014 and 2017 drafts playing defensive end.
“I know everyone else is looking forward to it, and so am I,” Garrett said. “I know the guy is aggressive, really gets after it and he has a motor, keeps attacking, plays the run well and a good pass rusher. He’s an athletic specimen like someone I know on the Browns, so it will be fun.
“We got [free-agent pickup] Takk [McKinley at defensive end, too]. John Johnson will be able to make some plays. [Cornerback] Greedy [Williams] will hopefully be back [from last year’s shoulder injury], and Takk will come in and apply some pressure. It’s all rounding out pretty nicely.”
There have also been departures from the defense. Clowney and McKinley were signed to one-year deals for $8 million and $4.25 million, respectively, to replace Olivier Vernon, a free agent coming off a ruptured Achilles tendon, and Adrian Clayborn, whom Berry cut last month.
Defensive tackles Sheldon Richardson and Larry Ogunjobi are gone, too, with Malik Jackson and Andrew Billings projected to fill those roles. Jackson signed a one-year, $4.5 million contract with the Browns last month. Billings signed a one-year, $3.5 million deal with them last year before opting out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns.
Berry released Richardson last week, saving the $11 million he had been scheduled to make in 2021 and about $10 million in salary cap space. The GM allowed Ogunjobi to leave in free agency, and he signed with the Cincinnati Bengals last month. Ogunjobi was Garrett’s closest friend on the team.
“It was hard to see Sheldon and Larry go,” Garrett said. “But those are great guys, great men. I know they have their heads held high, and they’ll go on to be productive wherever they go.”
Stefanski said Tuesday “I hope there’s a scenario” in which Richardson can return to the Browns. Of course, it’ll depend on whether Richardson finds an offer from another team that he prefers to what he would receive from Berry.
As for Garrett, he’s under contract with the Browns through 2026 after signing a five-year, $125 million extension in July. The native of Arlington, Texas, has a home in Medina County, and has fully embraced Northeast Ohio and Cleveland.
“The longer I’ve been here, the more it’s grown on me, and I’ve just started to love it,” Garrett said. “Even when I’m in Texas, I sometimes miss my home of being in the city or just going through and seeing the people. Back where I’m from, they say we have a lot of kind, well-mannered people, and I feel like it’s the same way here in Cleveland. So it’s much appreciated. It’s always felt like a second home.
“I [tell people] you’ve got to give [Cleveland] a chance. A lot people look at Cleveland and they kind of just write it off. When I tell them about it, I say, ‘Just come in with an open mind. You don’t know about a lot of hidden gems. You just have to go out there with no expectations. Be open to it all.’”
Garrett hopes to bolster the list of hidden gems, so he’s working with other artists on murals and wants collaborate with Infante again down the road.
“I’ve always had an appreciation for the arts whether it was my own artwork or it was literature or actual illustrations,” Garrett said. “So being able to actually work with an artist and being able to see his process and a finished product, that’s great for what I want to do, and it turns out great for Cleveland.”
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Browns’ Myles Garrett says revamped defense will ‘be very scary’