The Cleveland Browns will open training camp on Thursday with almost all of the starting positions on lockdown.
The two exceptions come at right guard, where the Browns will be looking for a replacement for Kevin Zeitler, and at safety, where the team must find a starter to replace Jabrill Peppers.
The candidates to line up next to Damarious Randall in the defensive backfield include Morgan Burnett, signed as a free agent this off-season; Eric Murray, acquired in a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs for defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah, and Jermaine Whitehead, a midseason waiver-wire pickup from last year.
There is another option, however, and it is a player who has been linked to the Browns since at least March - free agent Eric Berry.
A nine-year veteran, Berry has spent his entire NFL career with the Kansas City Chiefs, earning five Pro Bowl selections and three All-Pro nods. The talent is there, but the problem is that injuries have limited Berry to just three total games over the past two seasons.
That helps explain why Berry is still on free agent on the eve of free agency, but it hasn’t stopped NFL media members from eyeing the Browns as a landing spot for Berry, with Gil Brandt at NFL.com being the latest:
A lot has transpired since John Dorsey signed Berry to a six-year, $78 million extension with the Chiefs in February of 2017. Achilles and heel injuries limited Berry to four games (including the playoffs) in the past two seasons, including the 2018 AFC title game, when Berry struggled in coverage against Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. Dorsey, meanwhile, ended up leaving Kansas City and taking on the Browns’ rebuilding efforts. The 30-year-old Berry, who was released by the Chiefs this offseason, would bring leadership skills and savvy to a safety unit that currently includes just two other veterans (Damarious Randall and Morgan Burnett). The big question is whether the three-time All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowler will be able to stay healthy for an entire season.
If injuries were not a concern, Berry to the Browns would make a lot of sense. The last time he played a full season, in 2016, he earned an 89.9 overall grade across 1,151 defensive snaps with the Chiefs, according to Pro Football Focus.
That level of production exceeds what the current candidates bring to the field for the Browns.
Burnett spent the 2018 season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, playing just 11 games because of injuries, and finished the year with 30 tackles on just 364 defensive snaps. In three seasons in Kansas City, Murray appeared in 45 games, making 11 starts, and has one interception and seven passes defensed to show for it. He also has 88 career tackles and one sack.
Of course, if Berry did not come with injury concerns he would likely still be with the Chiefs or have already signed with a team.
He could be the worth the risk, but if the Browns do decide to bring Berry to town they need to have a solid backup plan in place if injuries were to hit Berry again.
Should the Browns sign Eric Berry?
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