Sheard faces contract year in new defense

BEREA, Ohio -- The praise from Mike Pettine flowed freely after the Browns' first minicamp practice.

The object of Pettine’s affection: Jabaal Sheard. The hybrid defensive end/linebacker has definitely caught the coach’s eye.

“We want a guy who plays like his hair’s on fire,” Pettine said Tuesday. “If I were to pick a guy who matches and fits that, the first name I would come up with is Jabaal.”

Pettine loves Sheard’s versatility and his athleticism. He is a 270-pounder who can rush the passer and cover in space.

“I think we can move him around,” Pettine said. “He can play with his hand down. He can play up. His drops skills are more than adequate.

“And he plays violent.”

Which means the Browns could face an interesting scenario with Sheard after the season, when he could be an unrestricted free agent. If he has a big season, he will only help his bargaining position.

Sheard said some brief contract talks have taken place, but nothing substantial.

“There was something at the beginning,” he said. “But we’re just focused in on the year.”

Sheard made no secret that he would like to stay in Cleveland.

“I want to be here when the city erupts,” he said. “I know it’s coming. Hopefully this year is the year.”

But other players have said the same thing and left for greener offers. In free agency it only takes one team.

“Hopefully it works out,” Sheard said. “I’m just going to take it one step at a time. I’m only going to worry about this year.”