BEREA, Ohio— Tramon Williams was brought in to upgrade the Browns stable at cornerback. He was arguably the Browns biggest free agent signing coming to the Browns from the Packers. The Browns signed the former Pro Bowl cornerback from Green Bay to a three-year $21 million contract.
The Browns lost Buster Skrine to the Jets in free agency and feel Williams can immediately step in and replace Skrine. However, Skrine ended up the starter last season opposite of Joe Haden because Justin Gilbert couldn’t beat him out.
The Browns expect Gilbert to be better and ready to compete for the starting position this season, but couldn’t take a chance Gilbert will be ready for the first game.
On Sunday, Pierre Desir was running with the first team ahead of Gilbert as Mike Pettine gave Williams the day off.
“I think if you look right now, Tramon is with the ones,” secondary coach Jeff Hafley said after Sunday’s practice. “He has done a great job. He has really bought in. He came in in great shape and he has really had a good couple of days. It’s still early. As far as the next, it is still competition.
“Why was Pierre out there first today? Because he earned it,” Hafley said. “That is how we are going to be in the room. Whoever earns it is going to be who goes out, whether it is with the twos or if Tramon takes the day off and it’s with the ones. That could change tomorrow. It could have changed halfway through practice. When you create competition, you have to be fair and whoever earns it is going to be the next guy in. Pierre earned it today so today he got the nod.”
Hafley said Gilbert has to be more consistent, a problem that plagued him in his rookie season.
“I think (Gilbert’s) done a good job,” Hafley said. “The key for him is still consistency. I thought he had a good practice (Sunday), which was nice to see, as we made some adjustments with him (Saturday) and he came out and he did a good job. I just keep telling him, ‘Just be your best today.’ ”
Williams said he thinks he can be the starter and still be a mentor to Gilbert and Desir.
“It’s one thing I never ran from, I never ran from competition,” Williams said. “I can help a guy because if I win the spot I want to win it with the guy being at his best. But at the end of the day we’re looking to help each other.”
Williams, 32, said he thinks he will be the starter.
“I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t confident,” Williams said. “I always have that hunger behind me. Me and Justin are going to make each other better at the end of the day. And we’re going to need each and every guy in here.”
Williams said he has been impressed with Gilbert since he’s been in Cleveland.
“I see a guy who is focused and ready to come in and get to work,” Williams said. “At the end of the day, he was a rookie last year and it is one of the toughest positions to play. Justin has all the tools. He has the athletic ability. He has everything. He just has to come out and focus, and he is going to do that.”
Williams said he has always had to earn his starting position.
“There is always competition,” Williams said. “Even when I came into Green Bay, I came in and I had to earn my spot. Once I got to that spot, I still had to fight off guys every year. Even though everyone else thought it was my spot, I didn’t see it that way. I felt that I always had to fight for that spot, and that is the same way I treated it every year.”
Williams scoffs at the notion that he’s on the downside of his career.
“That is all I heard – the 30-mark,” Williams said. “No one ever said you couldn’t play anymore. I am happy to be here. I am happy the Cleveland Browns were one of the teams that wanted me. I thought this was an excellent spot for me. The over-30 thing is just what people say when you get there. It is just what people say when you get there. I have still been productive in this league for a long time, and I still have a lot of football to play. Hopefully I can come here and show those guys what I can do.”
Hafley said he doesn’t see Williams slowing down a bit.
“Just watching him run against (Taylor) Gabriel and Hawk (Andrew Hawkins), Gabriel or Hawk went on a shallow cross and it looked like (Williams) was shot out of cannon,” Hafley said. “He looks young still to me. He can go. The way he takes care of his body, the way he approaches the game, he sits in the front of the room and he has like a beginner’s mentality. He is in there taking notes and asking questions. To me, that says a lot about him. When guys do that, they get it. They know how to be pros.”
Williams said he is excited for a fresh start with the Browns and is excited for the opportunity to help the Browns make a push toward the playoffs.
“No doubt about it – a fresh start for me, fresh new look so I am excited,” he said. “It is a new challenge. The challenge is getting us there. When I signed here, I knew the potential that this team had, and it is intriguing for me because the players that I see, we definitely are capable of making it to that point. We have just got to believe it. We just have to believe it. Hopefully, I can come here and bring some experience and add to that.”
What do you think of the Browns addition of Tramon Williams to a very talented defensive backfield?