BEREA – Guard John Greco was “caught off guard” when the Browns approached him recently about a new contract. He was “thrilled” when the five-year deal, which runs through 2017, was finalized Tuesday.
“I wasn’t really expecting it,” Greco said on a conference call. “The Browns approached me the other night, and I’m happy we got something worked out.
“I’m thrilled. I’m happy the Browns have value in me and I’m excited for the opportunity to play for a team that’s ready to get some wins.”
The deal doesn’t guarantee Greco, 28, a starting job, but it’s a strong indicator of the team’s plans and its faith in him. He, Jason Pinkston and Shawn Lauvao are competing for the two guard spots, but Greco spent most of the offseason working with the first team.
“Those guys are extremely talented,” said Greco, a Youngstown native who went to Boardman High School. “I will just do everything I can to make sure I’m one of (the starters).”
Greco had started only four games in his first four NFL seasons before starting 10 in 2012 at left guard in place of Pinkston, who was out with blood clots. Greco impressed his teammates, coaches and the new front office.
“John is a solid, all-around teammate, on and off the field,” coach Rob Chudzinski said in a news release. “He was given an opportunity to play last year and really showed well. He’s respected in the locker room for his approach, consistency and team-first attitude.”
Greco is the first Browns player acquired by the previous regime to receive a long-term extension from the new one.
“One of our goals is whenever possible to develop and keep our own players,” CEO Joe Banner said. “We’re glad in this case that it worked out, and was mutually beneficial.”
Greco (6-foot-4, 315 pounds) was a third-round pick of the Rams in 2008 and acquired by the Browns in exchange for a conditional seventh-round pick before the 2011 season. He always believed he could become a starter.
“Absolutely, it’s been a longtime goal,” he said. “I tried to make the best of my opportunity last year.
“Going into camp, that’s my mind-set: I’m gonna be one of those guys.”
Making the deal even sweeter are his Northeast Ohio ties.
“It’s big,” he said. “I’m happy about it. I know my family and friends are excited.”
Banner and general manager Michael Lombardi relied on the opinions of Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner before setting the offseason plan at quarterback. Brandon Weeden was retained as the starter, and Jason Campbell and Brian Hoyer were signed as backups and options if Weeden stumbles.
“It was the combination of what we felt about Brandon and then what the options were, the alternatives,” Turner said. “And obviously we helped our quarterback situation a great deal getting Jason and getting Brian.
“So I like our quarterback situation. And I’m going to say it again, we have a lot of work to do to get to where we want to be, but I think we can be successful with this group.”
Turner has seen Weeden make progress.
“He’s got more of a sense of urgency and I think he’s playing faster than he has, and that comes with doing the same things over and over again and that comes with him having a better understanding of what he’s doing,” Turner said.
Turner likes to use a fullback, but his options are limited. Owen Marecic is the only one listed on the roster and isn’t a lock to make the team. Brad Smelley and Kellen Davis are tight ends who could line up there in a pinch.
“The beauty of this offense is that it is versatile enough that you have success with the players you have,” Turner said. “We’ve used a variety of different styles of fullback and have been very productive.
“We’re going to make due ... we’re going to take the guys that we have and find out what they do best and give them a chance to do that. I believe we will end up with a traditional fullback in our offense and how much we’ll use him will depend on the style of offense we end up running.”
Backup tailback Chris Ogbonnaya saw time as a fullback in two-back sets during offseason workouts.
“He can do some of it,” Turner said.
Turner has a history of coaching superb tight ends, including Jay Novacek in Dallas and Antonio Gates in San Diego.
Jordan Cameron has just 26 catches and a touchdown in 22 games over two seasons, but the Browns are hoping he can be the next in line.
“We’re going to give Jordan opportunity to be that guy,” Turner said. “Now let’s put it in his hands. Is he capable of being that guy? That’s why you go to camp. That’s why you go play the games.”
No. 1 receiver Josh Gordon is suspended for the first two games, but Turner said it won’t be a problem preparing him and the rest of the receivers for the regular season.
“You get so many reps in training camp, I don’t think it is a factor in what we’ll do,” Turner said. “We’ve got enough guys to get them ready to play and we’ll get Josh ready to play so he’s ready when he comes back.”
The Browns signed free agent receiver Naaman Roosevelt (6-0, 200 pounds) to bring the roster to the camp limit of 90 players.
He played in 16 games in two years with the Bills, totaling 25 catches, 396 yards and a touchdown. He spent training camp with the Bills last season, was cut and spent the season out of the league.
He entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of the University at Buffalo.