Here is a quick look at the defense and what we can expect this offseason.
Defensive Line; A gigantic world eater, an underachieving new-comer, a budding, mouthy player, an old injured vet, and a lot of roster filler.
Shaun Rogers; (7.6 Mil) 29 YO What else can I say? The man has been without a doubt this teams MVP. Hell I still think that he should be mentioned for defensive POY. The man is simply a bad ass. 7.6 million dollars is a steal. How is Leigh Bodden working out Detroit?
Corey Williams; (8.7 Mil) 28 YO That price just hurts looking at it. I am willing to give Corey a pass for this year learning to play a new position. I still think that Williams has a big upside and talented big men in this league are hard to find (think Gerard Warren). Outside of a huge development, he will be back next year, hopefully playing the left side of the 3-4.
Robaire Smith; (2 Mil) 31 YO He signed a four year deal two years ago. He is due to earn four million dollars the next two years. I think the Browns will try and re-structure his deal coming of his injury. If Smith doesn’t want to re-do his deal he could be cut. If you think of it from his point of view, 1 million a year or become a 32 year-old free agent coming off an Achilles injury. I think he comes back next year and tries to make some money back with the Browns.
Shaun Smith; (2.15 Mil) 27 YO I like big Shaun. I would hate him if he didn’t play for the Browns. He is always yapping. He seems to do a good job as a DE, not so much as a NT. I hope the Browns also realize this and stop putting him in at NT. We get gashed when he is in at NT. At the very worse, he is an awesome depth guy.
Ahtyba Rubin; (387 K) 22 YO This kid has a shot. I don’t think that he has mastered the art of taking up space, but he seems to be around the football more than the following trio. He has the size and ability to be a major force. I think he has a Ted Washington type body. That is a good thing when it comes to NTs.
Santonio Thomas; (370 K) 27 YO I believe that Santonio is on this team because he is cheap and 300+ pounds. I don’t remember him making any outstanding plays lately but I do notice he is in more often. A replaceable guy.
Louis Leonard; (FA) 24 YO I think that Leonard has more upside than Thomas just on size alone. That being said, I think if a better option comes along, the Browns will have no problem letting Mr. Leonard take his show elsewhere. He will not be re-signed.
Chase Pittman; (300 K) 24 YO Purely a practice squad type player. I see him in preseason games and he doesn’t really wow me. The team is once again faced with having a player whose best attribute is being 300 LBS. Maybe this is why our defensive line has played poorly this year.
Free Agency Help; There are some names on the list that I think the Browns would have some interest in. The guy I love is Chris Canty from Dallas. He played in a 3-4 in college at Virgina, and has played in a 3-4 his entire career at Dallas. He would be a huge upgrade from Robaire Smith. He may be somewhat expensive but would be worth it. I like Shaun Cody from Detroit. He is an undersized DT playing in a Cover-2 defense. I think he would be a good depth guy on the Browns as a DE. Tank Johnson is a turd but is also a very active NT. Also Grady Jackson could be cheap coming off a legal battle with the NFL, would be a nice depth piece at NT. Gabe Watson is a restricted FA that could probably be had for little compensation. Same goes for Kedric Golston from the Redskins.
Draft Help; If you have watched the Alabama Crimson Tide this year, you have heard of Terrance Cody. He is the freak of nature NT that has given that defense a huge cog in the middle. I know the Browns invested a ton of money in the D-Line last year, but if Cody is staring the Browns in the face at pick 12 or so, it will be very hard for them to pass up. He is HUGE. 6-5 365. That is Shaun Rogers big. How nice would it be for the Browns to have those monsters line up in the middle of the Browns defense? We could slide Rogers out to DE and stop running games cold. Later in the draft the Browns could look at B.J Raji from Boston College. Has had some academic issues that got him suspended for a year, but is a real talent He could be pushed down to the 3rd round. Also Fili Moala from USC. Was supposed to be a top 5 pick this year but has not lived up to the hype, but has the talent to be a stud. Very easily could be a DE in a 3-4. A very deep draft at DT, which is good for the Browns. You can never have enough talented big men.
Prediction; The Browns bring back Robaire Smith at a reduced price, but also go looking for one in free agency. In a perfect world it would be Chris Canty allowing the Browns to have a five man rotation of Rogers, S. Smith, R. Smith, Canty, and Williams clogging the alleyways for opposing offenses. Grabbing a high talent like Raji in the third round would be awesome.
Linebackers; A position that has proven to be a HUGE need this offseason. The supposed main man has regressed every year and the best pass rushing LB is 1,000 years old.
Kamerion Wimbley; (1.345 Mil) 25 YO I do not understand this guy. He has the tools, and according to the coaches, he has the want-to. The production is not there. If he is facing a LT that has no problem with a speed rush, Wimbley is good for nothing. I have a hard time believing that a kid that was this good his rookie year, has just lost it. I think it is a bad combo of the Browns defensive coaching and opponents game planning. I am starting to believe he is more Kendrell Bell than Terrell Suggs.
D’Qwell Jackson; (745 K) 25 YO He racks up a ton of tackles yet none seem to be important or behind the line of scrimmage. Is it because he doesn’t have the ability to play on the other side of the line or is it because the defensive line has been unable to keep guards and centers off him? I tend to lean towards the side of Jackson just not being a game-changer. Don’t get me wrong 120 tackles is nice, but when they are made 5-6 yards downfield, that isn’t helping this run defense out much. And how in God’s name does a MLB play in 39 games in the NFL level and not force ONE FUMBLE? That is amazing to me. I think he needs a dynamic MLB playing next to him. D’Qwell is a nice number two MLB in a 3-4.
Andra Davis; (3.2 Mil) 29 YO Has there ever been a quieter 3.2 million that has played in every game? The man’s name is never called and I cannot remember the last time he made a great play. The past two years the man has ONE forced fumbles. That is a black hole of big plays from the center of our defense. Davis is a free agent after this year, and I do not think he will be back with the Browns.
Willie McGinest; (3.5) 36 YO I like Willie. He was not brought here to be a great pass rusher. He was brought here to help teach the young LB’s to play the 3-4. He is still stout against the run and is a team leader. He is retiring at the end of the year. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him be a coach in some capacity for Billacheat or Parcells in Miami. I wish him the best.
Leon Williams; (446 K) 25 YO I have always been a fan of Leon Williams, but like most of the LB’s he seems to have taken a step back this year. Maybe it was the hair? After racking up 85 tackles last year to go along with 4 sacks I thought Leon would get his chance. He has done almost nothing. That being said I have not lost hope with him. With his size (6-2 250) I still think his position is OLB, and I hope the next coaching staff realizes this. He can rush the passer, and that is what is sorely needed from this unit. He will be back next year.
Alex Hall; (341 K) 23 YO What a steal by Savage. Hall was the buzz in mini-camp and preseason, and has lived up to the hype. When he is on the field he seems to be around the ball all the time. He has 3 sacks and 2 FF in limited duty. He is the pass rusher going against the RT most of the time when we are in our dime defense. He has a TON of potential and could be a fixture for the Browns in the future. I think he will be the starter at LOLB next season if the team does not go outside the organization.
Beau Bell; (790 K) 22 YO I guess an Incomplete would go here. He has seen time in only five games this year, yet according to ESPN.com has registered 2 FF’s in his short duty, one of those coming on special teams against Jax. Could be a difference maker, hopefully we will be able to see these last four weeks.
Antwan Peek; (1.5 Mil) 29 YO Next year will be the final year of Antwan’s three year deal he singed after the 06 season. Will a new coaching staff be interested in a 30 year old OLB coming off a knee injury? He could be cut if the salary cap purposes out-weigh the potential gain of a healthy, effective Peek.
Shantee Orr (645 K) 27 YO / Kris Griffin (754 K) 27 YO; These two are supposed to be ST dynamos that can help occasionally in the 3-4 defense. Griffin and Orr have been invisible all year so much so that I thought that Griffin was on I.R. Orr is a FA after this year as is Griffin. I doubt they will be re-signed.
Free Agency Help; The free agency pool is VERY deep at LB. Some people don’t think it is very wise to spend money on LB’s but the 08 Browns have shown that a deficiency at this position can kill a 3-4 team. I think the name to circle is Bart Scott. The Ravens will also have Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs on the market. I think they will tag Suggs and re-sign Lewis. They will not make an effort to sign Scott. Bart Scott was close to signing with the Browns last time he was a FA, and I think we would match up well with Scott. Would be expensive, but a playmaker at MLB next to Jackson would be awesome. Also a name to keep an eye on is Channing Crowder. He has become a really good MLB in Miami filling in for Zach Thomas. He is a UFA and could be cheaper, and younger than Scott. At OLB Karlos Dansby is a good OLB and would really help our pass rush. Other names include Takeo Spikes (MLB in a 3-4) and Mike Peterson who will not be brought back in Jax. Also Eric Barton while getting older, wouldn’t be a bad piece to add if he was cheap.
Draft Help; I know there will be some people who say James Laurinitis would be a good pick for the Browns, but I am not so sure. I think he is more of a 4-3 MLB. I love the Animal, but I hope the Browns pass on him. Rey Maualuga is another MLB that I do not like. Every time I watch USC, it is Brian Cushing all over the place not big hittin’ Rey. I think Cushing is the better deal at OLB and he could very well be there in the early 2nd. I do like Jasper Brinkley from South Carolina he is a big physical MLB and plays fast. Also Brandon Spikes from Florida is a kid to keep and eye on. He is very athletic and seems to always be making big plays. I think he has scored two TD’s for the Gators. I will keep an eye on him at the SEC Championship game Saturday. At OLB, Michael Johnson from Georgia Tech is a physical freak. I have seen him play numerous times in person, and this kid has all the tools to be a superior rush OLB. He is big (6-7 257lbs) and can RUN. He is a GUNNER on the punt team, the very same position that Josh Cribbs fills on our punt coverage. He is a talent to watch. He will go in the top on potential alone. From what I have seen he is very fluid in pass coverage also as the Jackets do some zone blitzing. He is very fun to watch. If you can catch a GT bowl game, do so for this kid. Also George Selvie is a good target for 3-4 teams. He has struggled some this year after his breakout year, but from what I have seen it is because he is facing constant double teams. He set an NCAA record with TFL last year and is a good candidate for any 3-4 squad. Greg Hardy from Ole Miss could be on the board when the Browns pick in the second round. Doesn’t have the tools of Johnson or numbers of Selvie, but he is the right size and has athleticism to make the switch. He has been hurt some this year which could push him down into the late second early third. Also Brandon Graham from Michigan. He has experience in the 3-4 and is big at 270 lbs. Kind of reminds me of a poor mans Willie McGinest. Auston English from Oklahoma got hurt this year but is also very talented. Was voted the Big 12 pre-season defensive player of the year. Last but not least is Maurice Evans from Penn State. I really like this kids ability to get to the QB. Has had some legal slip-ups but nothing to bad. Would be a steal in the fourth round. Sleepers include Mitch King from Iowa could end up being a DE in the 3-4. Jamal Westerman from Rutgers, and Will Davis from Illinois.
Prediction; This position goes under a major face lift. Gone will be Davis, McGinest, Peek, Orr and Griffin. The Browns will add at least two guys in the draft and one or two in free agency depending on the price. I think the Browns will go all out to sign Bart Scott and will land him to play next to D’Qwell Jackson giving the Browns a very nice duo at MLB. If Scott doesn’t sign, I would like to see Mike Peterson at MLB. Outside I think the Browns take Michael Johnson from Georgia Tech in the first round. He is simply to great of a talent and a need to pass on. I also see him possibly starting from day one. Late in the draft the Browns will target another Alex Hall hopefully getting us playmakers on the edge. This teams pass rush sucks. It has to be improved. Getting some speed off the edge will help.
Cornerback; A budding superstar, a decent number two, and a bunch of junk.
Eric Wright; (853 K) 23 YO When we look back in a couple of years, we may look at Eric Wright being the best draft choice, behind Joe Thomas in the Phil Savage years. Opposing teams are also noticing this and going away from Eric Wright’s side attacking the other corners. He is not a finished product by any means but has shown the tools to be a top corner in this league. He is not at the top level with Champ Bailey and Nnamdi Asomugha’s yet but he is getting close. He has held his own against some top level competition. He held Lee Evans to zero catches. I would not be surprised to see Eric Wright become one of the AFC’s four best CB’s next year. He is a stud.
Brandon McDonald; (375 K) 23 YO His struggles have been well known and discussed. I happen to like the kid though. He has been matched up with some pretty good WR’s this year and has played well in some cases, like last week against Reggie Wayne. He is not a elite CB and he will get beat when he gambles. Those are mistakes that I can live with at times. If the Browns draft a CB I think that McDonald would be a VERY good nickel back. If they don’t I expect him to continue to get better.
Terry Cousin; (1.4 Mil) 33 YO I really hope that Terry Cousin is not on this team next year. He sucks. The only possible reason I could see him back next year is if he is the fifth CB on this team. He signed a two year contract before the season, so he is under contract for next year. If it is for 1.4 million though, he better be getting a pay cut at least. The man is a walking bull’s-eye for opposing QB’s.
Travis Daniels; (927 K) 26 YO I really can’t say much about Travis Daniels other than he gives us some depth that has starting experience. He has 5 tackles on the year. That is it. No other stats. I guess he has been pretty invisible.
Daven Holly; (1.42 Mil) 26 YO Daven Holly is the forgotten man. I believed he was going to be the number two this season in front of McDonald. His injury changed all of that. He is a free agent after this season and I expect the Browns to make a solid push to re-sign him. He shouldn’t be all that expensive coming off a knee injury and he put up very good numbers in 2006 and 2007. I think he will probably be our dime/nickel man in 2009 depending who the Browns bring in.
Gerald Lawson; (300 K) 23 YO Did a nice job filling in for Cribbs on kick returns. Is still young and plays on ST. Probably will be back with his contract being very cheap.
Free Agency Help; I know that Nnadi Asomugha is a free agent. The Raiders are not going to let him go anywhere. They will probably hit him with the exclusive franchise tag meaning other teams can’t even talk to him. Dunta Robinson from the Texans is an intriguing possibility. He has missed some time this year since he tore his ACL late last year, but up until then he was looking like one of the best young CB’s in the NFL. I would love the Browns to try and see if they could pry him away with a Donte Stallworth type deal, signing to a longterm deal that could be voided after one year. DeAngelo Hall is also a free agent but is also a big time a-hole. I tend to think he believes that he is much better than he really is. Wouldn’t mind having him depending on the contract. Chris Carr from Tennessee would be worth kicking the tires on.
Draft Help; First of all, I am a Buckeyes fan. I know that means that I probably like Buckeye draft prospects more than others. But I have already come out against the Browns drafting Beanie and Animal. So when I say that I am in love with the idea of the Browns taking Malcom Jenkins I mean it. The only problem is that I don’t think there is a chance in the world Malcom drops that far. Jenkins will be a top three pick and possibly the number one draft choice (I am still leaning Stafford or Bradford with the number one pick). I know that sounds crazy, but Malcom is 6-1 205lbs. He will run in the 4.3’s. In this day and age that is still considered a freak combo. And if you look around the NFL, the Ohio State has put a ton of CB’s in the pro bowl (Winfield, Gamble, Springs, Clements etc.) If he falls the Browns should run the card up to the podium. He is the best tackling CB I have seen since Antoine Winfield. He is an awesome player. Pairing him with Wright would be a great CB duo. Also Vonte Davis from Illinois is a very good CB and will go in to top 15. Not the total package that Jenkins is but seems is just a cut below. Sleepers for the later rounds include, Victor “Macho” Harris will go in the second round, a very good tackler but struggles with stuff over his head. Could be moved to safety. A deep sleeper in the Eric Wright category is Domonique Johnson from Jackson State. Started at Missouri then transferred for “unknown” reasons. He is big 6-2 190lbs and supposedly runs a 4.3. If those numbers check out he could be a steal late in the draft. Some scouts seem him as a safety which the Browns could also use probably in the third to fourth round. And Mark Parson at Ohio University is another name to keep an eye on. He played well against Ohio State this year and is rumored to be one of the best man coverage guys in the nation. The only video I found was pretty neat. Seems like a player to me. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYGnXm3zE_E&feature=related
Prediction; The Browns don’t get a chance to take Malcom Jenkins and decide that their number one pick is better used on a pass rush. The Browns will address their secondary late in the draft. I like Mark Parson from Ohio. He is supposed to be a great man-to-man cover guy and those are always needed. Outside of a shock I don’t see any big free agency signings at CB this year. Macho Harris being moved to safety wouldn’t be a bad move either. This is just me speaking out, but Chris McAllister from Baltimore will surely be cut after his clashes with the new coaching staff and his high salary, what about bringing him in to play safety? Rod Woodson did it when his career looked over, and was pretty good at it too.
Safety; A youngster growing up and another with his foot out the door
Sean Jones; (4.89 Mil) 26 YO Two years ago I would have made the argument that Sean Jones was one of the five best safeties in the NFL. I’ not even sure if he is the best safety on this team anymore. That is a combo of Pool stepping up and Jones lagging behind. He is a free agent after the year and I think he believes he can get top money, I don’t see the Browns being in the running to re-sign him. Gibril Wilson got a six year deal for 39 million dollars. And Gibril Wilson isn’t that good. If Sean Jones wants that kind of money, he won’t be with the Browns next year.
Brodney Pool; (600 K) 24 YO Pool is only 24 years old. That is awesome. I used to believe that he would make a better CB than safety. No longer. He has been all over the field for the Browns this year. He has 3 INT’s, a sack, a FF and 5 pass defends. Not to bad for guy that I wanted benched at the start of the season. I think he will continue to get better with every passing year.
Mike Adams; (608 K) 27 YO Adams was abused early in the year mostly because he was playing out of position. He is a number three safety at best and was being used in a nickel role. He is a free agent and if the price is right I would like the Browns to bring him back.
Nick Sorensen (1 mil) 30 YO/ Hamza Abdullah 25 YO; Sorenson was mostly a ST player and was kept around to do just that while Abdullah was brought in when Jones went down with a knee injury early in the year. Sorensen signed a three year deal before the season and will be back to direct ST. Abdullah has received almost zero playing time this year, but will probably be brought back for depth purposes.
Free Agent Help; The only help on the free agent market is either old, or not very good anymore. Brian Dawkins is easily the best of the bunch and would be looked at as an upgrade over Sean Jones. How much would his price tag be is the question. Dawan Landry has played very well for the Baltimore Ravens and will be a restricted free agent. Unless he receives the highest tender possible, which I don’t think the Ravens will do, he would only cost the Browns a fifth round pick. He has been injuried this year and the Ravens may try and get him through on the cheap. He would be a very nice, young addition to the safety position, and it would also hurt the Ravens. Always a plus. Darren Sharper and Lawyer Milloy could be one year stop gaps.
Draft Help; Taylor M’Fn Mays. If you haven’t seen this kid, you are missing out. He is the size of an LB at 6-4 225lbs. I actually think he is up around 240lbs now which is not a bad thing because Pete Carroll says that Taylor Mays is the fastest defender on his team. That is a NFL defense Petey has in SoCal, so that is quite a compliment. He will go in the top 15. I am not a huge fan of taking a safety early in the draft because I believe their impct is not great enough to “waste” a top pick on them. But I think this kid is in the Troy Polamalu, Bob Sanders, Sean Taylor mold. Games changers that can wreak havoc on an offense. He is most often compared to Taylor, and if you watch a USC game, look for Taylor Mays, it is hard to miss him. Also Nic Harris from Oklahoma is a good safety with size and speed. Not as big or fast as Mays (who is?), but is definitely a playmaker in the secondary. I already mentioned Domonique Johnson in the CB section. Late sleepers include Kevin Ellison from USC, and Rashard Johnson from Alabama. Johnson is intriguing because he is being coached by one of the best secondary coaches walking the planet in Nick Saban. He could probably start day one.
Prediction; Sean Jones leaves the Browns. I like Sean Jones but I think he will get 40 million dollars from a team that thinks he is still an elite safety. The Browns sign Dawan Landry. The Ravens have too many Free Agents of their own to resign and may have to let some good players go. The Browns will cash in with Scott and Landry. Landry is a SS and would fill right in for Sean Jones. After that maybe a young guy if he becomes a value pick late in the draft, but I would doubt it.
Summary of my moves for defense:
Gone are Santonio Thomas, Louis Leonard, Chase Pittman, Andra Davis, Willie McGinnest, Shantee Orr, Antwan Peek, Kris Griffin, Terry Cousin, Travis Daniels, Sean Jones.
Free Agency additions; Bart Scott (ILB), Dawan Landry (SS), Chris Canty (RDE), Darryl Blackstock (OLB), Marques Harris (OLB), and Chris Carr (CB).
· Michael Johnson (OLB) First round
· Domonique Johnson (CB/S) Third round
· Mike Parson (CB) Fourth Round
· Maurice Evans (OLB) Fourth Round* Projected pick from DA trade
After the fourth round, we should be on best player available mode no matter the position.
Defense for 2009 (My projection/wants)
Corey Williams, Shaun Rogers, Chris Canty (Starters)
Back-ups; Shaun Smith, Robaire Smith, Ahtyba Rubin, and two young players
Michael Johnson, Bart Scott, D’Qwell Jackson, Kamerion Wimbley (Starters)
Back-ups; Alex Hall, Leon Williams, Maurice Evans, Beau Bell, Darryl Blackstock, Marques Harris
Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald (Starters)
Back-ups; Mike Parson, Chris Carr, Domonique Johnson, Young rookie or Veteran
Dawan Landry and Brodney Pool (Starters)
Back-ups; Mike Adams, Nick Sorensen, young draftee
These moves equal out to 29 players. This is one less defensive player than Browns are carrying now. I think these moves make our defense younger and much more of a “game changing” type defense.