Can we deduce the Browns’ pick?

Can we deduce the Browns’ pick?

Alyssa Brosious
2 years ago
3 min read

The Clowney signing

In a move that had been rumored for weeks, Cleveland finally agreed to terms with Jadeveon Clowney on a one-year deal worth $8 million. Clowney is coming off of a career-worst season with the Titans, recently blaming scheme fit and his knee on a year where he had zero sacks and just six QB hits before an injury ended his season after only eight games.

Now with his fourth team, the three-time Pro Bowler and former second-team All-Pro has a chance to bounce back in a big way, teaming up with Myles Garrett along the edge. However, with five knee surgeries in seven years, it may be hard for Cleveland to depend on Clowney past this season.

Richardson released

Along with the Clowney signing, the Browns surprised many last week with the release of defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. Richardson played and started nearly every game for Cleveland after signing a three-year, $36 million deal back in 2019. However, his release only cost the team $1.666 million in dead cap while saving them around $12 million this season.

Now there is a chance we may see Clowney used inside more often with Richardson gone, just like how Richardson used to get bumped to the outside if need be. But assuming Clowney comes off the edge, that leaves Malik Jackson, Andrew Billings, and Jordan Elliott as possible options at d-tackle.

But Jackson, 31, is coming off of two uneven years in Philadelphia and signed for a little under $4 million to replace the departed Larry Ogunjobi. Billings has yet to make his Browns debut after opting out last season due to COVID, and Elliott really struggled as a third-round rookie in 2020.

New-look secondary

At the beginning of free agency, Cleveland signed cornerback Troy Hill and safety John Johnson from the Rams, essentially replacing CB Kevin Johnson and SS Karl Joseph. While they lost another corner, Terrance Mitchell, his replacement, is already on the roster.

Second-year corner Greedy Williams will join the fold again this season. A second-round pick in 2019, Williams started 12 games his rookie year but missed all of last season with a nerve injury in his shoulder.

Williams, Hill, and Johnson join former first-round pick Denzel Ward and second-year safety Grant Delpit in the secondary. It’s a group that has a lot of upside but also quite a bit of youth that the Browns are in no hurry to replace.

So who’s the pick?

So putting all of the clues together, we can get an idea of who Cleveland is likely looking at in the first round. Clowney likely takes care of their immediate need at edge-rusher, while the secondary is probably all set aside from adding depth later in the draft.

The need at d-tackle is still present, but likely not in the first round. This draft class is particularly weak when it comes to defensive tackles, with Alabama’s Christian Barmore the only one projected to be a first-rounder.

That leaves linebacker as the area the Browns are still likely to target. With middle linebacker Anthony Walker and former third-rounders Sione Takitaki and Jacob Phillips flanking him on the outside, Cleveland may think about getting a long-term answer at the position. And after two offseasons of not investing money at the position in free agency, the draft may be the only answer.

Someone like Tulsa’s Zaven Collins makes a lot of sense. Collins can rush the passer while also drop back in coverage, earning a 93.0 coverage grade last season, according to Pro Football Focus. Notre Dame’s Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is also an exceptional athlete who can go into coverage to support a young secondary.

If they want to focus on a linebacker with more prowess for pass-rushing, Miami’s Jaelen Phillips or Gregory Rousseau would also be realistic options for who would be available at 26. However, they’re likelier to be linebackers in a 3-4 defense, which Cleveland currently doesn’t use.

Either way, the moves Cleveland has made this offseason lead me to think that linebacker will be addressed first in this year’s draft.

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