Cleveland Browns Free Agency Talk 2013 - DL & LBs

USA TODAY Sports

A lot has been said about the Cleveland Browns' switch to an "aggressive" 3-4 scheme. First we heard it would be "more of a hybrid," then it wasn't, just before it was again.

One thing remained consistent: Personnel didn't appear to be a major concern for this regime. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton stressed on multiple occasions the importance of simply being able to "run and hit," and having a group of players that aren't married to a specific system.

The Browns have needed a pass rusher regardless. They're also relatively thin at linebacker, outside of D'Qwell Jackson, who's shown an ability to play in both schemes and is under contract through 2016.

Once again, free agency could be the place to add some depth to the front seven and/or potentially save the No. 6 overall pick for another position, if they decide break the proverbial bank on one of the following guys.

3-4 OLB:

  • Paul Kruger (BAL - 27) – Paul Kruger made a name for himself in his contract year this past season and did even more for his financial future. Some have already predicted Kruger landing in Cleveland. If the Browns do go after him, they'll be competing with a number of other teams vying for his services, so expect the final offer to be substantial.
  • Connor Barwin (HOU - 26) – The big question with Connor Barwin is whether his 2011 campaign was a flash in the pan or will the disappointing 2012 season be the outlier in an otherwise successful career going forward? The Texans are making him a priority. But the teams that miss out on Kruger make look here next.
  • Shaun Phillips (SD - 31) – Shaun Phillips will be entering his tenth season in the league this year. He'll turn 32 before the opener. Though, last season showed no indication that he was slowing down after missing four games in 2011. He may have a few years left in the tank.
  • Anthony Spencer (DAL - 29) – Franchised tagged by Dallas.

ILB:

  • Brad Jones (GB - 26) – Brad Jones really benefited moving from OLB to inside. He was then pushed into a starting role as the Packers dealt with some injuries. If the price is right, the Browns could add a really solid player in Jones to play along side Jackson. He's probably not worth going overboard for.
  • Dannell Ellerbe (BAL - 27) – If the Ravens wanted to keep Dannell Ellerbe, they didn't do themselves any favors by making Joe Flacco the highest paid player in the history of the league. That won't stop them from trying and that's where Ellerbe wants to be.

4-3 DE:

  • Cliff Avril (DET - 26) – Cliff Avril is another player in this year's free agent class due for a big payday. Apparently, he want's it to be Mario Williams-big. To refresh your memory, that was a six year/$100 million contract. That's an investment not worth making. But don't be surprised if a team comes somewhat close to that. Hopefully it's not the Browns. A number closer to $60 million would be more reasonable.
  • Michael Bennett (TB - 27) – The Buccaneers want to bring their emerging young defensive end in Michael Bennett back and it looks like he'll let them have a shot to do that.
  • William Hayes (STL - 27) – William Hayes had a solid break out performance last season with the Rams after four pedestrian years in Tennessee. St. Louis would be smart to retain him for a mid-level contract.
  • Osi Umenyiora (NYG - 31) – It seems like Osi Umenyiora is discussed every single offseason. Why stop now? Like Phillips, this veteran will be entering his tenth season. Unlike Phillips, Umenyiora has made his career in the 4-3.
  • Michael Johnson (CIN - 26) – Franchise tagged by Cincinnati.

You can check out the rest of Cleveland Browns Free Agency Talk 2013 here: QBs, RBs, WRs.

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