March 13, 2015

CLEVELAND (AP) John Hughes didn't play as much as he wanted last season because of injuries. The Browns missed him.

On Friday, they decided to invest in him for the future.

Hughes signed a four-year, $14 million contract extension with Cleveland, which has been criticized by some of its fans for not being aggressive during free agency. However, the Browns made sure they locked up Hughes, a 2012 draft pick who has exceeded expectations.

Before he signed the extension, Hughes' contract was scheduled to expire following the 2015 season. Now he'll be under contract for the next five years.

''It's an amazing feeling,'' Hughes said. ''For the Cleveland Browns to have the faith in me and believe in me to sign me a year early, it's just a great feeling.''

The versatile 25-year-old Hughes made three starts and played in just five games last season before he was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury. Hughes returned for the season finale at Baltimore and made a career-high seven tackles.

The 6-foot-2, 320-pounder is considered one of the team's best run stuffers, and his absence - and the loss of massive tackle Phil Taylor to injury - led to the Browns finishing last in rushing defense.

Injuries forced the Browns to play 10 starting lineup combinations last season. If they can stay healthy, the Browns have the pieces to be one of the AFC's better defenses.

''I feel like not just me, but the team has a lot to prove,'' Hughes said. ''I feel like we have a lot to do.''

Hughes, an Ohio native who played at Cincinnati, has made seven starts and played in 36 career games. He's also been one of the team's most active members in the community.

''Being Ohio-raised my entire life, being a Browns fan growing up and being able to live my dream out means everything,'' he said.

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