BEREA, Ohio — Mike Pettine is proving to be quite the salesman.
The Browns officially announced the signing of Brian Hartline on Monday, just hours before the official start of free agency. Multiple reports said Hartline signed a two-year contract for approximately $6 million.
Hartline admitted he didn’t have high expectations when he was first contacted by the Browns to come in for a visit.
"For me, going into this opportunity, it was really important to picture myself in a program, in a franchise, with a coach to win," Hartline said in a conference call Monday with local media. "Winning is the most important thing to me. To be frank, when I came up to Cleveland, (my thought was) ‘Let’s go check it out’ and didn’t expect a whole lot.
"I knew (the Browns) were interested, but from an outsiders point of view, I didn’t really know what to expect," he said. "I wouldn’t have made the trip if I wasn’t interested, but with that being said, once I got there, I was pleasantly surprised.
"From the facility, to coach Pettine to coach Flip (offensive coordinator John DeFilippo) to coach (wide receivers coach) Joker (Phillips)," he said. "Everything was really, really a good experience and I could picture myself in the situation and it felt like at some point seemed your gut is kind of just there and it was one place I wanted to be."
Hartline admitted that Pettine was key in his reasoning to sign with the Browns.
"He’s a man’s man," Hartline said. "He’s straight to the point. He loves football and wants to win. He’s got an AFC East background and we talked about that.
"I enjoyed (talking with him) and he is one of the main reasons why I believed in his vision and the type of team he wants to build here. He was a major part of why I wanted to be here."
Hartline confirmed the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots were close to signing him amongst other teams but said he believes where the Browns are trying to go despite having a losing record every season since 2007.
"I guess there’s a point where the past is the past, it really doesn’t matter," Hartline said. "It’s more about the future where they are going, that’s what’s most important. I’m not going to base (the decision) on where they’ve been.
"It’s important to have a good track record, any team would say that, but I believe in the vision in Cleveland," he said. "I believe in where they want to head and to me looking from an outside point of view, I remember a 7-4 football team. I look at a defense that’s really put together and I look at an offensive line that’s really put together, near the top in the league and those are building points. I think Cleveland, (I mean) we, have a lot of things established.
"You always want to add more pieces and hopefully, I can do my part and come in and raise the level of expectations. That’s all I’m trying to do."
Hartline made it clear that he intends on being an integral part of the receiving corps.
"I hope I’m a critical part of the offense and I’m part of the reason why we’ll win from here on out, why we’re going to compete for division titles," Hartline said in the release announcing his signing. "I want to be a part of the process, I want to be a part of bringing along younger guys, showing them the right way to do things. For me, it’s all about winning. I’m hoping to come to Cleveland, win some football games and be a contender year in and year out."
Pettine said Hartline is the epitome of what the Browns are looking for.
"Brian is a tough, smart football player with that innate ability to always get open," Pettine said. "He is not only a good fit for our offense but for our entire football team.
"What impressed me about visiting with him was how passionate he was about playing here," Pettine said. "He really wanted to be a Cleveland Brown. We are excited to get him onboard and look forward to seeing him help improve our football team."
GM Ray Farmer agreed.
"Brian is an excellent teammate," Farmer said. "He’s a crafty and savvy player with very good hands and is a precision route runner. He can win at all three levels. His size, hands and route running make for a good combination and he is going to help us at the position. We are happy to be able to get him to our team."
The 28-year old former Ohio State Buckeye made it clear that he is happy to be back in his home state. Despite playing for the Dolphins the past six seasons, Hartline maintained a residence in Columbus.
"Home is Ohio for me, always has been and always will be," Hartline said. "There’s a lot of ownership when it comes to community off the field and there’s a lot of ownership to the hometown team and I’m proud of being a part of it. I can’t thank the coaches enough for the opportunity to come in and compete. I’m looking forward to it."