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3 Browns defenders with the most money to gain from Jim Schwartz hire

Free agency awaits three defenders finishing rookie contracts

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Washington Commanders Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Browns have made just one move this offseason but, no matter what else they do, it will likely be their biggest move. No matter who they draft, trade for or sign, no one is going to have the impact that Jim Schwartz. That is not a hyperbolic statement given how bad Joe Woods’ defenses were and how good Schwartz has been.

Schwartz can’t work miracles but he can get things out of players that Woods never did. GM Andrew Berry still needs to find a number of quality players for that side of the ball and decide what to do with S John Johnson III but Schwartz also needs to improve the play of players on the roster.

Three players stand out as possibly benefiting the most from Schwartz's arrival: Grant Delpit, Jordan Elliott and Jacob Phillips. All three were a part of Berry’s first draft class as Cleveland’s GM and are scheduled to hit free agency after next season is over.

Delpit’s role will depend on what Schwartz wants to do at the safety position. The LSU star has enough range to play free safety and enough pop to play in the box but, like JJ3, is more of a hybrid than a pure fit at either safety spot. If the Browns bring in a true free safety, Delpit can slide down to strong safety just fine or vice versa.

A talented safety with versatility can get paid some big bucks.

Elliott and Phillips could be fighting for their futures as former third-round picks that haven’t lived up to their billing. Elliott was a part of an underperforming defensive line that got pushed around in the run game and couldn’t get pressure against the pass.

Phillips is excited to play under Schwartz:

The other former LSU star from the 2020 Browns draft, Phillips was one of many linebackers to get hurt and miss the rest of the season this year. Right now, only Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is penciled into a starting role in the linebacker group. Anthony Walker Jr. is a free agent as is the other starter Sione Takitaki.

With one year to prove they are worth a second contract, big or small, Delpit, Elliott and Phillips have the most to gain from the change from Woods to Schwartz. If two out of the three earn a bigger contract than currently expected, Cleveland’s defense will likely be at a whole new level in 2023.