The Cleveland Browns head into the offseason needing to do some work on the defensive side of the ball, most notably at the defensive tackle position.
Second-year defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi was solid at one defensive tackle position, but he also wore down as the season went along after playing 930 snaps — the most in the league at his position.
The Cleveland Browns saw HUGE snap counts from their young studs on the defensive line this year.— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) January 15, 2019
Depth along the DLine is definitely a need this offseason (via @PFF_Mike: https://t.co/rDdbwv5A3z pic.twitter.com/WhhYwwSTLj
The rest of the position group was filled with a group of interchangeable players, including Trevon Coley, Carl Davis and Daniel Ekuale, that can safely fall into the dreaded category of “just a guy.”
General manager John Dorsey will likely look to fix the issue via the draft, but there is one name to keep an eye on in free agency that would certainly get fans excited - Gerald McCoy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
There is much to like about McCoy as he has been selected to six Pro Bowls, has played 13 or more games eight times in his nine seasons, and has had at least six sacks every season since 2013.
So why would Tampa Bay want to move on from McCoy?
It could come down to a system change as new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles brings his version of a 3-4 defense to town. Under Bowles, the defensive tackles are tasked with occupying the offensive lineman and letting someone else on defense make the play. That, along with his price tag, could make McCoy expendable, according to ESPN’s Jenna Laine:
Gerald McCoy, who has spent all nine of his NFL seasons in the Bucs’ 4-3 scheme, is to make $13 million next year (none guaranteed) if he remains on the roster. Given that the Bucs are about $16.5 million under the salary cap going into 2019, there is a real chance he won’t return.
So could the Browns make a run at McCoy if he does, in fact, hit the open market?
Cleveland has a little more than $75 million in estimated cap space, according to spotrac.com, so the money is there. And spending some of that cap space to improve the roster while quarterback Baker Mayfield is still on his rookie contract is not a bad idea.
Signing McCoy to line up next to Ogunjobi would also not preclude Dorsey from drafting another defensive tackle to build up the team’s depth and keep the starters from breaking down later in the season.
McCoy is going to turn 31 in a few weeks, and that is a bit older than you normally want to see from a player that the Browns would want to sign in free agency. But he doesn’t appear to have any injury issues, and the Browns would only be looking at him for a couple of years, so his age may not be a problem.
Of course, Tampa Bay has to release McCoy first and, if that happens, the Browns will not be the only team interested in signing him.
But if that day arrives, it would not be a surprise to see Dorsey toss his hat into the ring for McCoy in an attempt to give the defensive line some much-needed help.