BEREA, Ohio — The Browns cut big Phil Taylor and swallowed his beefy contract.
A first-round pick in 2011, Taylor was released Tuesday by Cleveland in a surprising move that included the Browns having to pay him a guaranteed $5.5 million. The 6-foot-3, 335-pound Taylor underwent two knee surgeries last year and has been limited during training camp.
His recovery wasn't going as well as expected — he played 11 snaps in last week's win over Tampa Bay — and the Browns feel good enough about the depth on their defensive line to release a player who was once considered a potential cornerstone. Also, the quick development of rookie Danny Shelton, a first-round pick this season, made Taylor expendable.
"Given the depth we had in that room, we knew we would have to make some difficult choices," coach Mike Pettine said. "We were aware of where Phil was in his state of rehab and he was well on his way to being back, but given where he was and how we felt about the room, that we felt it was the right decision for all involved."
Pettine said Taylor's contract was not a factor in the decision.
"When we talk about the roster, the contractual stuff to me is a secondary thing, especially given where we are financially," Pettine said.
Taylor went on Twitter to thank Cleveland fans, saying "The fans are what makes Cleveland, Cleveland! Gonna miss you guys!!"
Along with Taylor, the Browns also released defensive lineman Ishmaa'ily Kitchen, who played three years in Cleveland, along with fullback Luke Lundy and kicker Carey Spear.
Spear's release appears to give Travis Coons the kicking job, but it's possible the Browns could still sign a veteran as teams release players this week. Coons made a 41-yard field goal — his only attempt — and three extra points in the Browns' first three exhibitions.
Coons will kick in Thursday's exhibition finale in Chicago, and that performance could determine whether the Browns will stay put or look for another kicker when teams trim their rosters to the mandated 53-player limit Saturday.
"It was close," Pettine said of the competition between Coons and Spear. "I thought both those guys handled themselves very well, very professionally. Carey did a really good job and I'll be surprised if he doesn't get a look elsewhere. There will be some interest in him, but Travis - it was close - was slightly better. I'll be curious to see how he responds to that."