The Cleveland Browns hired Jim Schwartz as defensive coordinator this offseason to fix a defense that has underperformed in recent years.
One area that needs considerable attention is the defensive line, which outside of defensive end Myles Garrett does not have a player that keeps opposing offenses up at night.
As the NFL Scouting Combine rolls along in Indianapolis, a veteran defensive end who is familiar with Schwartz is being linked to the Browns as a possible signing in free agency, so let’s take a look at Brandon Graham of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Name: Brandon Graham
Position: Defensive end
Height/Weight: 6-foot-2, 265 pounds
2022 Team: Philadelphia Eagles
Stats: 2022: 17 games, 1 start, 35 tackles, 16 QB hits, 11 sacks, 21 pressures, 4 hurries, 11 tackles for loss
Career: 178 games, 105 starts, 451 tackles, 140 QB hits, 70 sacks, 109 pressures, 47 hurries, 116 tackles for loss
PFF Grade: 89.8 overall, 71.9 vs. run, 89.1 vs. pass
2022 Contract: Final year of contract, $7.5 million.
Fit with the Browns
Brandon Graham has spent his entire career with the Eagles and reportedly prefers to stay in Philadelphia if possible. But the Eagles may not be as interested given that the final three years of Graham’s current contract carries some significant payments, which Philadelphia may not be willing (or able) to pay to a player who will turn 35 in early April.
Eagles free agent DE Brandon Graham is generating interest from other teams, including the Browns, sources say.— Tim McManus (@Tim_McManus) March 3, 2023
His preference is to finish his career in Philly but sense here is he’s open to signing elsewhere, depending on where the Eagles come in with their offer.
Given that the Eagles are expected to cut Graham, there are growing rumors that the Browns might be interested in reuniting the veteran defensive end with defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who served the same role with the Eagles from 2016 to 2020, so there would be a comfort level that could help smooth Graham transitioning to a new team.
Graham is coming off the first double-digit sack season of his career, and his pass-rush win rate of 22.9 percent was sixth in the league at his position, while his pressure percentage of 17.1 percent checked in at No. 7, according to Pro Football Focus.
Browns Players Signing Could Impact
The Browns are not bringing back defensive end Jadeveon Clowney for a third season, so the team needs someone to take over the veteran defensive end role opposite Myles Garrett. While Graham is not an every-down player, the numbers he put up in 2022 outshine everyone on Cleveland’s roster not named 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
Wright is not going anywhere, but Graham could easily take over the roster spot of any of the other defensive ends and the Browns would not think twice about the move. Having Graham on the team would also take some of the pressure off of Wright and give the room another solid veteran to learn from about how to play the position under Schwartz.
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 rushing the passer on a consistent basis before teams start using four blockers against him on passing downs. Graham could very well be that player as he is still productive, wants to play, and is familiar with Schwartz and what he wants from members of the defensive line.
PFF projects Graham to pocket a one-year deal at $4.5 million, with $4.25 million of that guaranteed. That is certainly within reason for the Browns, who could also add a second year to seal the deal if Graham wants to be more than just a one-and-done player.