The Cleveland Browns need help at the safety position after a disappointing 2022 season that saw numerous breakdowns in pass coverage in the secondary.
That was true even before the news came out on Monday that the Browns are planning to release veteran safety John Johnson III if they can’t find a trade partner by March 15. With Johnson out, and Ronnie Harrison Jr. not expected back after three disappointing years in Cleveland, there is a hole to fill next to Grant Delpit on the back end of the defense.
With that in mind, there is a safety within the AFC North that general manager Andrew Berry might want to take a hard look at in free agency.
Name: Von Bell
Height/Weight: 5-foot-11, 205 pounds
2022 Team: Cincinnati Bengals
Stats: 2022: 16 starts, 77 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles, 6 missed tackles, 4 interceptions, 8 pass defenses
Career: 109 games, 93 starts, 636 tackles, 35 PDs, 6 interceptions, 26 TFLs, 26 QB hits, 15 forced fumbles, 11 fumble recoveries
PFF Grade: 66.3 overall, 63.6 vs. run, 65.5 vs. pass
2022 Contract: Final year of contract, $6.1 million
Fit with the Browns
There is little doubt that the Browns need to add someone at the safety position, and if they decide that Jessie Bates III is too pricey, they could look at his Cincinnati Bengals teammate, Vonn Bell.
Bell started 48 games in his three seasons with the Bengals and served as the on-field leader of the secondary. He is sound against the run - something that should appeal to the Browns - as his run-defense grade of 88.7 over the past five seasons is eight-best among safeties, according to Pro Football Focus.
The seven-year veteran has also shown his ability in coverage over the past two seasons. He has posted consecutive years with a coverage grade above 65, which would have easily made him tops among Cleveland safeties in 2022. And would you like for Cleveland’s defense to finally start covering the opposing tight end? Well, Bell is pretty good at that as well.
Browns Player Signing Could Impact
That question was answered on Monday when the Browns made it clear that they intend to release John Johnson III if they can’t find someone willing to trade for him. Cleveland likely needed another safety even before deciding what to do with Johnson, but now the need is clear.
How Signing Could Impact the NFL Draft
It all depends on which way the Browns go. If they sign Bell or another free agent, safety becomes a much lower priority in the draft. If they decide the cost is too high for any of the available free agents, then the safety position slots in as another priority on the defensive side of the ball behind the defensive line and linebackers.
Medium-High: The Browns need someone to line up next to starting safety Grant Delpit, so with a roster spot opening up, the need now takes on a greater sense of urgency. While he may not be a superstar, Bell is the type of all-around player that would fit with the Browns, and his PFF estimated price tag of three years at $22 million with $13.25 million in guaranteed money would also align with their pocketbook.