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NFL free agency: 4 defensive tackles the Browns could sign with the loss of Mo Hurst

Browns injuries continue to pummel the team but is there reinforcements available?

Washington Commanders vs Detroit Lions
Michael Brockers 
Photo by Amy Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns are well-known for their helmets being devoid of any logo or sticker. They have attached to the sides their jersey numbers for four years, had on the drawing board a “CB” logo that never saw the field, and once Coach Paul Brown commissioned his trainer Leo Murphy to paint Brownie on the helmet side to see what it would look like, then hated it.

But with all of the injuries this roster has endured this season, it just may be suitable for the Browns to attach a white square with a bright red cross in the center onto both sides of their lids. Yes, each week the list of the injured increases.

The latest news - bad of course - was that key backup defensive tackle Maurice Hurst was lost for the remainder of the season due to a pectoral injury. The news is devasting to a defensive group that relies on their DTs to maintain gaps and eliminate run lanes. Their run defense is stout currently ranked 11th in the league with 1,343 yards allowed. They are 12th in yards per attempt at 4.1. Their defensive tackle personnel is the reason why.

Hurst was a major cog and each week has gotten better with more snaps.

Who is going to replace him?

Shelby Harris is the other main backup who gets quite a bit of playing time behind Dalvin Tomlinson who cohabitates with starter Jordan Elliott. But for backup and periods of rest?

On the roster is third-round rookie Siaki Ika who has been gathering snaps but hasn’t played all that much. It is possible that DE Za’Darius Smith or DE Alex Wright can play some inside reps as well. On the practice squad is Tommy Togiai, a former Browns fourth-round draft pick, and they recently signed Sam Kamara, another roster re-tread.

What about free agents or from other sources? Here’s four.


NFL: DEC 05 Saints at Buccaneers Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Akiem Hicks (6’-4”, 335 pounds)

Age: 34

Hicks did play his worst statistical season of his career in 2022 with 11 starts, but the big man has 41.5 sacks in his 11 seasons played with 409 tackles and 115 QB hits. With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last year, he had signed a one-year deal for $8 million so if the Browns signed him even for a short stint, he will probably be on the higher side versus cheaper options.

But Hicks is worth it. He began with the Chicago Bears and in six seasons, Hicks was very productive, having seasons of 7, 8.5, and 7.5 sacks in three straight years. When healthy, Hicks has proven that he can be a productive player and still play at a high level, even at the age of 34. The Browns would be hoping he can provide a solid veteran presence and bring some much-needed pass-rush ability to an already very talented defensive line.

Cleveland Browns Offseason Workout Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Trysten Hill (6’-3”, 310 pounds)

Age: 25

Team: New England Patriots

He was in the 2023 Browns training camp after signing a one-year deal then signed to the practice squad before being released again. He is now on the practice squad of the Patriots. The predictions were that Hill would make Cleveland’s final roster, but after the franchise signed Shelby Harris, Hill became an afterthought. He has a nasty disposition, remains a young man and already knows the defense.

Hill has a good initial burst and seems to always be the first off the snap. He plays with functional agility and can bend to finish tackles in the open field. Effective hand usage, is energetic and can be disruptive.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Quinton “Big Q” Bohanna (6’-4”, 338 pounds)

Age: 24

Team: Detroit Lions

Update: The Tennessee Titans poached Bohanna off the Lions practice squad

Currently on the Lions practice squad, Bohanna is powerful and a load to shove around. He has been brought up this year for three games for which he has six tackles and two tackles for loss. The Browns need another rotational body and Big Q can deliver.

Bohanna is a massive individual who was named Three Time All-State in high school. He can hold the point as a substitute as a two-gapping nose with good power who is much more likely to become a space-eater than a playmaker.

Yes, Bohanna is limited. But he is big and strong and could find work as a rotational player for Jim Schwartz’s defense.

Detroit Lions v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Michael Brockers (6’-5”, 322 pounds)

Age: 32

In the 2012 NFL draft, Brockers was taken 14th overall by the Detroit Lions and then named to the PFWA NFL All-Rookie Team. He has 157 NFL starts so the experience is there. In his 11-year career, Brockers has 451 total tackles, 29 sacks, 64 QB hits, and 52 tackles for loss.

At one stage, Brockers was an elite athlete. He is more of a 3 tech DT within a 4-3 defense and can still have an impact on the line. Built with a massive frame, he is very good off double teams with his thick, powerful legs. He uses his instincts well and has the uncanny ability to sniff out screens and draw plays. He can also be moved out to DE if needed.


Other names to consider: Ross Blacklock, Justin Ellis, Ndamukong Suh, Matt Ioannidis, Carl Davis (Cowboys PS), Christian Covington, Chris Wormley, Jaleel Johnson, and Gerald McCoy.


Poll

Put on your GM hat. Who would you replace Maurice Hurst in the DT rotation with?

This poll is closed

  • 15%
    Sign FA Akiem Hicks
    (135 votes)
  • 18%
    Sign Patriots PS player Trysten Hill
    (161 votes)
  • 6%
    Sign Lions PS player Quinton "Big Q" Bohanna
    (55 votes)
  • 8%
    Sign FA Michael Brockers
    (79 votes)
  • 28%
    Promote Siaki Ika
    (256 votes)
  • 6%
    Elevate Tommy Togiai from the Browns PS
    (57 votes)
  • 3%
    Move Alex Wright or Za’Darius Smith inside
    (30 votes)
  • 2%
    Promote recently signed Sam Kamara
    (24 votes)
  • 10%
    Sign one of the candidates listed at the end of the article
    (96 votes)
893 votes total Vote Now