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Myles Garrett wants 'to lead Cleveland to that promised land'

The last time the football world saw Myles Garrett, he was attempting to explain in a hushed tone how he'd ended up with an opponent's helmet in his grasp.

He's since replaced that helmet with bags of new money.

Garrett became the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history this week when he signed a five-year, $125 million contract with the Browns. He also became the first Browns first-round pick to sign a second contract with the team since Joe Haden, who was drafted with the seventh-overall selection in the 2010 draft.

The Browns spent nine first-round picks on players between Haden and Garrett. That type of spring ineptitude is what produced Cleveland's struggle-filled decade, but it didn't drive Garrett away from considering a long-term future in Northeast Ohio.

"There was no reservation for me because I kind of like that the history is what it is," Garrett explained Thursday. "Because it will only make it so much sweeter when we turn this thing around and actually start winning big games, winning playoff games and finally getting to that last one. I'd like to be a part of that. I'd like to lead the pack for that. So whenever we do that, whether it starts next year or how many years it takes, I want to lead Cleveland to that promised land."

Since the arrival of Jarvis Landry -- which came a year after Garrett was selected first overall -- the current Browns have slowly started to openly relish the opportunity to be the ones to end the struggles that have prevailed for the majority of the time since the team's 1999 rebirth. They've yet to do so, inching close to .500 in 2018 before regressing in 2019.

Garrett spent last summer telling the public it was his goal to win Defensive Player of the Year, and before his indefinite suspension, he was legitimately in the conversation. Just ask the Browns who were still around after Garrett was banished by the league.

With Garrett on the field in 2019, the Browns ranked second in the NFL in pressure rate (32.9 percent); without him, the Browns fell to 31st (21.5 percent), per Next Gen Stats. With Garrett participating, the Browns posted a sack rate of 8.5 percent; without him, that rate fell to 5.1 percent.

Though he might not quite be recognized as such yet, Garrett is the generational talent he was projected to be in the lead-up to the 2017 draft. The defensive end has averaged 0.82 sacks per game in his career, fourth most among all players since sacks were recorded in 1982, 13 years before Garrett was born. The three players ahead of him -- J.J. Watt (0.86), Reggie White (0.85) and Mark Gastineau (0.83) -- occupy their own places in significant football history.

Garrett has also recorded the highest pressure rate of any defender in a single season over the last three years, with his 17.1 percent rate almost a full percentage point higher than the next closest defender, Buffalo's Jerry Hughes (16.2 percent in 2018).

Only Garrett, Aaron Donald and Von Miller have posted a pressure rate of at least 12 percent in each of the last three seasons. Donald has been named the Defensive Player of the Year twice in his career.

"I want to be better in all aspects," Garrett said. "Even on that trajectory, I was in the player-of-the-year conversation. I don't want to make it a conversation anymore. This next year, I want to ball out, win that award, but I want to take my team to the playoffs and even higher than that. It's all based on what we do as a team and how we can build chemistry with each other."

As for that Thursday night in Cleveland when Garrett swung Mason Rudolph's helmet at the quarterback, the defensive end admitted it was a mistake that "won't happen again." He added that he hopes Rudolph "goes on to have success" and is open to communicating with he and his Steelers teammates about the incident "as grown men," but he's not spending another moment dwelling on the past.

"My life's much bigger than one moment," Garrett said. "Me, the Browns and my teammates are gonna look past that and go on to great success. That'll just be a small bump in the road."

If things go according to plan, much more significant moments await the $125 million man.

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