In Part 1 of our linebacker review, we looked at the top starting candidates. In Part 2, we look at the remaining five linebackers competing for a roster spot: Jermaine Grace, Tae Davis, Willie Harvey, Montrel Meander, and Solomon Ajayi.
5. Jermaine Grace - Backup LB
Height: 6-1 | Weight: 223 lbs | Age: 26
Experience: 4 years | College: Miami
Jermaine Grace was an undrafted free agent in 2017 who first began the year with the Atlanta Falcons. The Browns claimed him during the 2018 offseason and he tried to win a roster spot in training camp, but didn’t make the club. He played in 12 games for the Falcons last year as a reserve, finishing the season with 6 tackles. Last December, he re-joined the Browns’ practice squad.
Grace has shown some potential to be a decent coverage player, but his instincts in dissecting plays have prevented him from seeing more action beyond practice squads or special teams. Grace is in camp likely to compete for a special teams job.
Final Roster Odds: 25%
6. Tae Davis - Backup LB
Height: 6-1 | Weight: 224 lbs | Age: 23
Experience: 3 years | College: Chattanooga
Tae Davis originally signed with the New York Giants in 2018 as an undrafted free agent. Davis played in 14 games as a rookie, logging 30 tackles. Between that and the start of the 2019 season, he was graded low by Pro Football Focus. The Browns signed him last year and played him exclusively on special teams, where he had 4 tackles and 2 assists. Davis’ solid special teams play might earn him a roster spot more than his depth at linebacker. Back in college, he was a strong safety who converted to linebacker in the NFL; this was a scouting report of him at the time:
The former strong safety has proven to be very effective handling man coverage assignments. He shows the foot quickness and body control to make smooth and quick adjustments on the move and with his acceleration he is quick to close on plays in front of him. He might lack the blazing speed to run stride-for-stride with the quicker receivers one-on-one, but he shows good hand usage to prevent the route progression of most of his opponents.
Here is a snapshot of the type of hits he can make with the right angle (more so thinking about special teams):
Final Roster Odds: 40%
7. Willie Harvey - Backup LB
Height: 5-11 | Weight: 230 lbs | Age: 24
Experience: 2 years | College: Iowa State
When the Browns held tryouts at rookie minicamp in 2019, Willie Harvey was one of three players who were then signed to the 90-man roster. He didn’t make the final roster out of camp, but due to linebacker injuries in the first month of the season, he was promoted to the active roster. He only played in one game, registering an assist on special teams.
Harvey made a positive impression early in camp last year, showing good pursuit and energy. In the preseason, he had 8 tackles, 2 special teams tackles, 1 quarterback hit, and 1 pass defended. It’s a positive sign for a guy’s work ethic when he fights to make a roster through a tryout, then flashes at camp, and later gets promoted to the roster. This is a new coaching staff, though, and Andrew Berry wasn’t here last year when Harvey joined the team — so for everything he showed last year, he might have to work even harder to make an impression with the new staff.
Final Roster Odds: 25%
8. Montrel Meander - Backup LB
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 215 lbs | Age: 25
Experience: 1 year | College: Grambling State
How many offseasons do you remember Montrel Meander being on the Browns’ roster? If you guessed three, you’d be correct! He was an undrafted free agent who the Browns signed back in 2018 as a safety. He didn’t make the final roster out of camp, but spent most of the year on the practice squad before the Raiders signed him. He spent parts of last offseason with the Jets before Cleveland claimed him off waivers in August 2019. Once again, he didn’t make the team’s final roster, but did re-join the practice squad in October.
Meander was a wide receiver initially in college before converting to defensive back. He drew some attention when he ran a 4.4 in the 40-yard dash, and Cleveland signed him to be a safety. Several years later, the team now lists him as a linebacker.
Final Roster Odds: 5%
9. Solomon Ajayi - Backup LB
Height: 6-0 | Weight: 222 lbs | Age: 23
Experience: Rookie | College: Liberty
At last, some fresh blood! The Browns signed Solomon Ajayi as an undrafted free agent following this year’s draft, although you would’ve thought the team would’ve tried to add a few more. Ajayi was the 109th graded linebacker in this year’s class by Dane Brugler.
Here's Solomon Ajayi coming off the back peddle, recognizing it's a run and exploding to the ball-carrier to save a first-down gain. Just another example of what this linebacker brings to the table athletically. pic.twitter.com/joNlWrVs4g— JAKE OLIVER ELLENBOGEN (@JKBogenDTSN) March 30, 2020
Solomon is the younger brother of RB Jay Ajayi. Ajayi has good speed and athleticism, and was one of the players who Cleveland gave guaranteed money to ($60,000) to get him to sign as an undrafted player. He didn’t show dominant traits in college, but Cleveland was intrigued enough to give him a further look after he wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine. Here is a feature article about him from May:
“I feel like the Browns are a perfect fit for me and I’m just ecstatic to be part of this organization. The fact that I was even able to make it to a Division-I college then sign with an NFL team, it’s taught me I can beat the odds. I’ve just got to keep working, keep grinding and know whatever I can put my mind to, I can achieve.”
Final Roster Odds: 5%
You can only have one of these guys on the 53-man roster. Who is it?
This poll is closed