The Cleveland Browns are widely expected to address the defensive line when NFL free agency opens on March 15.
The team is obviously set on one end of the line with Myles Garrett, who posted his fifth consecutive season of double-digit sacks in 2022. After Garrett, however, things were rough.
Veteran defensive end Jadeveon Clowney worked out until he realized the Browns were not bringing him back for a third season and essentially quit on the team. The rest of the position group was filled with young guys trying to figure things out and veteran Chase Winovich, who was injured much of the year and only appeared in eight games.
With that in mind, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo is set to hit free agency after flashing some potential last season with the Houston Texans, which might be enough for the Browns to take a closer look at him.
Name: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo
Position: Defensive end
Height/Weight: 6-foot-1, 253 pounds
2022 Team: Houston Texans
Stats: 2022: 17 games, 8 starts, 44 tackles, 11 QB hits, 5 sacks, 36 pressures, 25 hurries, 6 knockdowns, 9 tackles for loss
Career: 50 games, 8 starts, 78 tackles, 24 QB hits, 9.5 sacks, 34 pressures, 10 hurries, 14 tackles for loss
PFF Grade: 75.1 overall, 61.5 vs. run, 81.9 vs. pass
2022 Contract: Final year of contract, $3.5 million
Fit with the Browns
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo spent his first three seasons with the Los Angeles Rams but only saw limited playing time as he was on the field for just 528 defensive snaps, picking up 34 tackles and 4.5 sacks along the way.
But once he moved to the Houston Texans as a free agent in 2022, Okoronkwo made the most of his one-year deal by giving the Texans 518 defensive snaps and finishing with 44 tackles and 5 sacks. It took a while to get going, but starting in Week 7 Okoronkwo’s pass-rush grade of 88.5 over the final 11 games of the season was the league’s sixth-best among edge rushers, according to Pro Football Focus. That closing stretch also saw him post a pass-rush win rate of 22.9 percent (seventh-best) and his 17.5 pressure percentage was eighth-best, per PFF.
Okoronkwo’s overall grade of 75.1 in 2022 was better than every Cleveland defensive lineman not named Myles Garrett and was just a tick behind Jadeveon Clowney’s grade of 75.8. Looking at just the pass-rushing numbers, Okoronkwo posted a pass-rush grade of 81.9 for the season, which would have been second on the Browns by a far margin, and his five sacks were more than Clowney, Chase Winovich and Isaiah Thomas combined.
The question facing teams when it comes to Okoronkwo is which player are you signing? The one who struggled to find consistent playing time with the Rams or the one that made a solid impression with the Texans?
Browns Players Signing Could Impact
The Browns are not expected to be bringing back defensive end Jadeveon Clowney for a third season, so the team needs someone to line up opposite Myles Garrett. While Okoronkwo might not be the “big splash” signing in free agency that gets fans excited, if last year’s performance is a true indicator of his talent, he is a major improvement over everyone currently on Cleveland’s roster not named Myles Garrett:
- Alex Wright - 38.4 overall, 37.2 vs. run, 47.1 vs. pass
- Isaiah Thomas - 51 overall, 48.3 vs. run, 59.8 vs. pass
- Chase Winovich - 61.1 overall, 69.5 vs. run, 52.9 vs. pass
- Sam Kamara - 62.6 overall, 60.1 vs. run, 61.4 vs. pass
How Signing Could Impact the NFL Draft
Defensive end may not be as high on the list as defensive tackle, but no matter what the Browns do in free agency, if they see a defensive end they like in the draft they should make the pick to keep building depth and increase their odds of finding some talent at the position.
Medium to High: Defensive end Myles Garrett needs someone else capable of consistently rushing the passer before teams start using four blockers against him on passing downs. Okoronkwo could be a name to watch when free agency opens next week, especially if the Browns can sign him to a contract in line with PFF’s projections, which put Okoronkwo at two years with an average of $5.5 million a year and $6.75 million in guaranteed dollars.