Solving The Browns Defensive Line Problem
On Thursday NFL insider Albert Breer went on a local Cleveland radio station and created a little bit of a stir. He said the Browns would make some “huge swings” this offseason. I don’t know if he’s basing this assessment on inside information or if it’s just speculation because of the Browns win now attitude. Prior to the Jim Schwartz hire, Breer tweeted the Browns were going to hire Brian Flores as their new defensive coordinator, so I’m guessing it’s pure speculation based on the Browns’ financial situation and how they’ve addressed past off-seasons. Could GM Andrew Berry be very aggressive this year if new DC Jim Schwartz asked for some “must-have” players? Sure.
In Berry’s first year, he was very aggressive on three free agents, right tackle Jack Conklin, tight end Austin Hooper and quarterback Case Keenum. On day two of the draft, he traded for fullback Andy Janovich. All these moves seemed to be on head coach Kevin Stefanski’s wish list. Two years ago, he signed John Johnson, III as a free agent. At the time Johnson was considered the best free agent safety on the market. Last year Berry traded for wide receiver Amari Cooper for basically a fifth-round pick. Cooper had his best season statistically in 2022. Of course, the biggest off-season move was the Deshaun Watson trade. So, yes, Berry can be very aggressive when the team needs him to be. Let’s look at the options on the biggest team need, defensive line.
For Browns fans, it all starts with Washington defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne. According to Pro Football Focus, Payne is ranked the second-best interior defensive lineman and an eleventh-best free agent in 2023. He’s always been a very stout run defender and he’s improving every year in his pass rush. His market value, according to spotrac.com, is $19.4 million per year based on a five-year deal. He’s 25 years old. Another potential big-money free agent DT is Javon Hargrave of the Eagles. He’s ranked the number-one interior defensive lineman and the fourth-best free agent in 2023. His market value is $20.1 million based on a three-year deal. Hargrave is an elite interior pass rusher and is very good at stopping the run. He’s 30 years old. Looking at Washington and Philadelphia’s salary cap situations, both are under (Washington, $7.3 million & Philly $4.6 million) so by making some moves both could afford to re-sign these players.
These two players would represent “huge swings,” but the Browns need more than defensive tackles in free agency. They also need an edge, a linebacker and possibly a safety.
On offense, the Browns need to add a veteran wide receiver. Other options at DT could be the Vikings Dalvin Tomlinson or the Jets Sheldon Rankins. Tomlinson’s (28 years old) market value is $8.5 million based on a three-year contract. Rankins (29 years old) market value is $7.3 million based on a two-year contract. By signing a defensive tackle at these values, the Browns could also add an edge like Matt Ioannidis ($5.4 million), Melvin Ingram ($4 million), or Justin Houston ($4.5 million). I would re-sign Taven Bryan ($5 million). Add a combination of these players to Myles Garrett and this is a very good defensive line. The backups at DT would be Perrion Winfrey & Jordan Elliott or a draft pick & a less expensive free agent. At DE the backups would be Alex Wright & Isaiah Thomas or a draft pick & a less expensive free agent.
What Andrew Berry does this offseason to improve the defensive line will be determined by new DC Jim Schwartz, the salary cap and the best players at their best values. I would love to see the Brown take a “huge swing” at Payne or Hargrave. But something tells me the Browns will add value to make the entire roster better. The playoff window needs to be opened in 2023.