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Stay or Go? Way too early look at 2020 Browns’ roster: Defensive line

DBN writers forecast what next year’s squad will look like

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers
Chad Thomas (92) 
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the disaster that will be known as the “2019 season that never was”, we here at DBN got our heads together and decided to see which players the new coaching regime will retain, and who should be shown the door.

Not that sports writers have any real crystal ball powers, because face it, none of us has won the lottery yet still try. So basically, educated guesses and calculated speculations are more in line.

Here is the first installment of our “Stay” or “Go” predictions, a five-part series. We wanted to do just one huge article, but were told we needed a book publishing license. And since none of us were smart enough to read through 485 pages of the license application, we took the easy road out and cut up the content into five articles. Besides, another rerun of “The Big Bang Theory” was about to come on and we were almost out of Hot Pockets.

First up, the defensive front. Let us know what your opinions are.

Defensive ends

Myles Garrett

Jesse Kuroiwa: He’s got to stay on the field, but he’s an incredible talent and our only consistently good pass rusher. We should lock him up long-term ASAP. He should fit into any kind of scheme the new DC brings, but he is the guy our defense should be formed around. There is really no decision here. STAY

Olivier Vernon

Thomas Moore: Defensive end Olivier Vernon was at the centerpiece of the second-biggest move that former general manager John Dorsey made. Injuries limited Vernon to just 10 games - the third consecutive year he has played 12 games or less - but when he was on the field he was effective, finishing the season with the second-best grade from Pro Football Focus (80.4) for Cleveland’s defensive lineman. Vernon enters the offseason with one year left on his contract and no cap ramifications if the Browns were to move on, but with absolutely no viable replacements currently on the roster, and other holes on the roster to plug, Vernon looks to be safe for 2020. STAY


Thomas Moore predicts Olivier Vernon will remain a Brown next season. What is your opinion?

This poll is closed

  • 62%
    Thomas knows the Browns. Keep Vernon!
    (620 votes)
  • 21%
    Keep Vernon, and then trade him
    (209 votes)
  • 16%
    Dump Vernon
    (166 votes)
995 votes total Vote Now

Chad Thomas

Matt Wood: Whew. What to do with Chad? I can count on one hand the times he has made an impact on the field. If he wasn’t a third-round draft pick would he be on this roster? A new FO/coach may trick themselves into thinking he is a player. I think he has one more year on the team but it is far from a sure thing. STAY

Bryan Cox, Jr.

Chris Pokorny: Bryan Cox is an example of a player who received opportunities after Myles Garrett’s suspension and Olivier Vernon’s injury. Out of all of the “new” defensive linemen signed to pick up scraps at the end of the year, Cox was the most intriguing, showing an ability to make a play behind the line of scrimmage at times. He’ll be replaced by a draft pick or undrafted guy though. GO

Porter Gustin

Barry Shuck: Depth was necessary when Myles Garrett became suspended, the rookie Gustin was elevated from the practice squad. Played quite a bit in some games and has very good run support. Is a bit undersized and often gets pushed aside easily by bigger offensive linemen. GO

Baltimore Ravens v Cleveland Browns
Robert McCray
Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Robert McCray

Jesse Kuroiwa: He tested well at the combine but seems to have gained significant weight since and if he played this year he didn’t jump off the screen. He has the stature of a traditional 3-4 OLB, so if we switch systems maybe he could stick. But otherwise: GO

Defensive tackles

Miami Dolphins v Cleveland Browns
Sheldon Richardson #98
Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

Sheldon Richardson

Thomas Moore: Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson finished his first season in Cleveland with the team’s best run-defense grade (75.1 according to Pro Football Focus) and was second on the team with 37 quarterback pressures. Just as importantly, Richardson emerged as the type of veteran presence the Browns are often lacking, especially as injuries (Olivier Vernon) and suspensions (Myles Garrett) hit the defensive line. Much like at defensive end, the Browns have no viable alternatives at defensive tackle, but even so, Richardson’s play earned him another year in Cleveland. STAY

Larry Ojunjobi

Matt Wood: What has happened here? As a rookie he looked like a world beater. Last year he took a step back, and this year another step back. I don’t think he is gone, but I think the Browns SHOULD be looking for someone to either push him as a starter or just straight take his job this off-season. He has the talent but he was not good this season. STAY

Justin Zimmer

Chris Pokorny: Justin Zimmer was signed for the final two games of the 2019 season. It is unfortunate that Devaroe Lawrence didn’t pan out after having such high energy in the preseason, but Zimmer was only on the roster for emergency depth in the first place. I’d be surprised if 10% of Browns fans even knew he was on the roster. GO

Eli Ankou

Barry Shuck: Signed primarily as depth off the Jacksonville Jaguars practice squad. Very good tackler, weak with run support. Needs more seasoning to remain a roster member. GO