In a series that will delve deeply into the Browns position groups, Cleveland Sports Talk writers will look at the numbers that will help play a role in determining which players will make the cut for the Browns when the final 53-man roster is set. Play on the field is important, but there are many factors to look at. The Browns want to build a team that is a mix of younger veterans and rookies with outstanding upside. The team wants to stay financially stable and retain star players into the future.
In part one, we’ll look at the Browns young and promising defensive line. We’ll examine the numerical merits of the 15 players we feel are likely vying for eight spots on the final roster. A lot can change between now and final cuts, but we’re only worried about players who are on the roster for now. Several players are practically guaranteed a spot, so we’ll start with them and work our way down to the players who will have to fight the hardest and prove the most.
Myles Garrett is guaranteed a roster spot for obvious reasons. The 21-year-old was the first pick in the draft and just signed a fully guaranteed $30.4 million contract. Garrett will be presented with every chance needed to be the defensive anchor that he is hoped to become.
Danny Shelton will be back after playing at a high level in 2016. Shelton is only 24 and has two years left on his four-year $11.7 million contract. The Browns also have an option for the 2019 season. The remaining years on Shelton’s contract are not guaranteed, but his play and his fit in Gregg Williams system make him a lock for this roster.
Emmanuel Ogbah was drafted 32nd overall in 2016 and is expected to be the other starting defensive end. Ogbah showed promise with 5.5 sacks in his rooking season playing in Ray Horton’s 3-4 scheme. His numbers should improve in his second season. Ogbah is only 23 and has three years left on his four-year deal. Ogbah could become a free agent after the 2019 season.
Carl Nassib will be in the rotation at DE. You have to feel that Nassib merely scratched the surface in showing his ability in an injury-marred rookie season. The 24-year-old DE was taken in the third round and has a team-friendly four-year deal that keeps him in Cleveland through 2019. He has less than $1 million of guaranteed money in his $3.59 million contract.
Browns third round pick Larry Ogunjobi is 22 and would play defensive tackle in the three gap. He recently signed a four year $3.9 million contract with less than $1 million guaranteed.
Caleb Brantley may prove to be the steal of the 2017 NFL draft. The DT was taken in the sixth round, but is considered to have the talent of a second-round pick. The Browns not only added an extremely talented player, they got him at a great price. Brantley is locked up for four years. The 22-year-old is owed $2.5 million over the life of the contract.
One of the most interesting players on the Browns roster is Desmond Bryant. He missed the 2016 season with a torn pectoral. His contract becomes guaranteed on June 1 to the tune of $4 million. At 31, Bryant brings experience to a young line, but do the Browns need him during this rebuild? After playing DE in the 3-4, Bryant would fight for playing time at the crowded three gap DT spot. Bryant has played well for this team in the past. He will be a free agent after the 2017 season.
Jamie Meder may not appear at first look to have a great shot at making this roster, but look again. Meder is a natural back-up to Danny Shelton at the one. He’s only 26 and is scheduled to make a non-guaranteed $615,000 in 2017. He would be a restricted free agent in 2018.
Xavier Cooper was a third-round pick in 2015. He offers versatility in that he could likely play DE or DT in the 4-3. He’s in the midst of a four year $2.9 million deal without any guaranteed money remaining. Cooper is only 25.
Nate Orchard was a second rounder in 2015. He has played in Cleveland as a 3-4 outside linebacker. After missing most of the 2016 season with an ankle injury, Orchard will try to make the Browns roster as a 4-3 DE. Coming off an injury, changing positions and being a player not chosen by the current regime, are all factors that will work against Orchard. Working in his favor are the facts that he possesses solid pass rushing skills and the fact that his salary is only $2.6 million over the last two seasons of his current contract. He doesn’t have any guaranteed money owed to him.
Tyrone Holmes saw very limited action for the Browns after being picked up off the waiver wire from Jacksonville in 2016. He was drafted in the sixth round by the Jags and has three non-guaranteed years left on his contract. The defensive end would earn less than $2 million dollars over the next three seasons if he can survive the stiff competition that awaits him.
The Browns have a grand total of $9,000 in guaranteed money tied up in the other four candidates for defensive line roster spots. They obviously thought something of these guys or they wouldn’t be hanging out in Berea these days. Truth be told, they all face extremely long odds in trying to make the 53-man roster. Trevon Coley and Nile Lawrence-Stample are defensive tackles, while Jamal Marcus and Karter Schult are defensive ends.
Expect the Browns to carry four defensive tackles and four defensive ends. The Browns could decide to do with a different roster mix, but it won’t vary by much. Garrett, Shelton, Ogbah, Nassib, Ogunjobi and Brantley are all close to locks for the roster. That leaves one spot at end and one at tackle. The reality is that only Desmond Bryant is looking at significant guaranteed money should he be on the roster June 1. Even Nate Orchard’s contract isn’t enough to make money an issue.
Look for Bryant to make the 53 if he survives June 1. The eighth and likely final spot will go to the remaining player who impresses the most. The Browns will most assuredly face some tough decisions with this position group.
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Images via Browns.com and ESPN
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