Cleveland Browns cornerback Pierre Desir spent the past two years juggling odd jobs to support his family with school and college football, a daily grind that usually started at 5 a.m. and didn't end until 10 or 11 p.m.
Desir, however, will no longer need to worry about making ends meet. The Browns agreed to terms with the Haitian immigrant on his rookie contract, the team announced Thursday.
The Browns drafted six players three weeks ago, and the 6-foot-2, 206-pound Desir is the first one to strike a deal with the team. Desir's four-year deal is worth $2.63 million and includes a signing bonus of $407,612, according to Spotrac.com.
The Browns selected Desir in the fourth round (No. 127 overall) out of Division II Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo. He's expected to become an immediate special-teams contributor and provide depth behind cornerbacks Joe Haden; Justin Gilbert, the eighth overall pick in this year's draft; and Buster Skrine.
Desir, who became a father as a teenager, began his college football career at Division II Washburn University in Topeka, Kan. But after two seasons, he transferred to Lindenwood so he could spend more time with his wife and two daughters. Washburn, though, wouldn't let him out of his scholarship. The predicament forced him to sit out the 2011 season and take minimum-wage jobs with Verizon Wireless and a temp agency so he could pay his way and support his family.
"I don't know how he slept," Lindenwood secondary coach and special teams coordinator Kent Maugeri told the Beacon Journal this month. "The poor kid worked so hard."
The odd jobs included cleaning up sewage, construction and janitorial work. Flood season in Missouri presented an especially unenviable task.
"We were in an apartment complex. Excuse my French, but I had to clean human feces," Desir said. "I had to take out furniture, clean out the water. They gave us knee-high boots, but the water was knee level. That was the worst one. Got $40 out of it, but I did it. I look back at it, it's not something I want to do again."
Desir, 23, excelled at Lindenwood despite his hectic schedule. Last year, he was named the winner of the Cliff Harris Award, which honors the nation's top small-college defensive player. In 44 games at Washburn and Lindenwood, he compiled 172 tackles, 27 passes defensed, 25 interceptions, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and three sacks.
Citing the physical traits that led to that production, Maugeri compared Desir to a notable All-Pro cornerback who helped the Seattle Seahawks win the Super Bowl in February.
"He's the D-2 Richard Sherman," Maugeri said. "He's got ball skills like I've never seen. Because of his size, his ball skills are outstanding. He's a physical corner. When the ball's up on that side of the field, there's a great chance he's going to come down with it."
SPECULATION SURFACES: All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham has yet to sign the franchise tag the New Orleans Saints used on him in February. In the unlikely event Graham doesn't work out a new deal with the Saints, former agent and CBSSports.com contributor Joel Corry explained in a column published Thursday that he believes the Browns could be a suitor partly because All-Pro wide receiver Josh Gordon reportedly faces a potential season-long suspension from the NFL for another violation of its substance-abuse policy.
Graham could sign an offer sheet with another team, giving the Saints five days to match it. If the Saints declined to match an offer, they would receive two first-round picks, one in 2015 and another in 2016, as compensation for losing Graham.
The Browns have $25.1 million in salary-cap space, second most in the league, according to the NFL Players Association. They also have two first-round picks in next year's draft, including one acquired during this year's draft in a trade with the Buffalo Bills.
The NFLPA filed a grievance on Graham's behalf this month because he was listed as a tight end for purposes of the franchise tag, but he'll argue that he spent more time at wide receiver last season. According to ESPN.com, Graham's snaps were divided the following way: 45 percent as a slot receiver, 33 percent as an in-line tight end and 22 percent as a wide receiver. The franchise number for tight ends is $7.053 million compared to $12.132 million for wide receivers.
Regardless of the grievance hearing, which is scheduled for June 17-18, Corry wrote that the most likely scenario will be Graham signing a long-term deal with the Saints. The deadline for franchise players to sign long-term deals with their teams is July 15.
VICE PRESIDENT NAMED: The Browns formally named Morocco Brown vice president of player personnel, the team announced Thursday. The hire was reported last week, and Brown has been working out of the team's headquarters for a couple of weeks.
"The Browns are better today because we've added an exceptional evaluator of talent," Browns General Manager Ray Farmer said in a news release. "In Morocco, we're getting a tireless worker who is clearly ready for this role, as he's had multiple GM interviews. I like that he's a former player that knows the culture of a locker room, and I like that he knows how to grow talent at the NFL level.
"This is a young, vibrant thinker, a detail-oriented, direct communicator who isn't restricted to operating under antiquated methods. He'll not only achieve his personal goals, but also will help improve our group and our system. Most importantly, he understands the daily fight, what we need to accomplish in order to identify and acquire the players we need to bring championships to Cleveland."
A former North Carolina State football player, Brown spent the past six seasons as the director of pro personnel for the Washington Redskins. He also spent the previous seven seasons (2001-07) as assistant director of pro personnel with the Chicago Bears. Brown spent the 2000 season and the 2001 offseason as an assistant scout with Washington, and he was a scouting intern with the Indianapolis Colts in the spring of 2000.
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