We continue our series by digging deep into the Browns defensive backfield. We’ll specifically cover the safety position. When it comes down to making the final cuts, predicting the breakdown by position in a Gregg Williams’ defense may prove to be a tall task.
Expect the Browns to carry four safeties, but don’t be surprised if five make the team. I believe the Browns will retain their 10 best defensive backs. Williams doesn’t play a conventional defense, so he will evaluate players differently than some might.
The Cleveland Browns currently have seven players on their roster who could challenge for playing time at safety. The interesting part is that only Ed Reynolds is a true free safety. That doesn’t necessarily guarantee Reynolds a spot on the team, but it may help him. We’re all aware that Williams plays a variety of sets, including many 4-2-5 variations. These packages may contain different combinations of defensive backs. The Browns starting free safety won’t necessarily see a lot of playing time.
The Browns selected Jabrill Peppers with the 25th overall pick in April. When the Browns traded down from 12 to 25 and obtained Houston’s 2018 first round pick, it was emotional for most of us. They passed on Ohio State’s Malik Hooker who many of us had hoped would be there at 12. They also set themselves up to once again control the draft in 2018. Peppers is only 21 and is the versatile type of player that will fit perfectly into this defense. While he has yet to sign his rookie contract, the four-year deal will keep Peppers in Cleveland through the 2020 season and should cost the Browns roughly $10 million.
The Browns rolled a set of loaded dice when they traded Demario Davis to the Jets for former first-round pick Calvin Pryor. The 25-year-old was the 18th overall selection in 2014 and became disposable when the Jets drafted safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye in the first two rounds of the draft this year. Pryor is due a guaranteed salary of $1.6 million in the final season of his rookie deal. He will be a free agent after this season. The Browns are undoubtedly looking for a big season in a contract year from Pryor.
Derrick Kindred was a 4th round pick in 2016. He has three non-guaranteed seasons left on his contract. He would earn $1.9 million over that span. The 23-year-old would be a free agent following the 2019 season.
Ed Reynold was a 2014 5th round pick by the Eagles. He is under a non-guaranteed contract for $615,000 this season. He would be an RFA in 2018. If Reynolds can prove that he can play free safety better than anyone else on the roster, he will earn a spot on this team.
The Browns drafted Ibraheim Campbell in the 4th round in 2015. Campbell, 24, has two years left on his contract. He’s due $1.3 million over those seasons, but none of it is guaranteed.
Undrafted free agent Kai Nacua signed a three-year deal worth $1.6 million, but it’s not guaranteed. The 22-year-old would be a free agent in 2020.
Alvin Hill is also an undrafted free agent with a three-year, non-guaranteed $1.6 million deal. Hill played corner at Maryland but has the size to play safety. This versatility can’t hurt.
The safety position is fairly easy to predict. With guaranteed contracts, Peppers and Pryor are locks to make the team. There is no guaranteed money due to any of the other safeties and they are all 25 or younger. Ed Reynold may have an edge as a free safety, but he will have to show growth to earn a spot. The final two or three roster spots will be earned strictly by play on the field and the impression the players make on the coaches.
It’s survival of the fittest and isn’t that what football should be all about?