The busy season in the NFL has slowed down tremendously. While a random signing will pop up here and there, NFL free agency hits mostly a pause a couple of weeks before the start of the NFL draft. Few rumors will be circulating, few visits will be made by veterans and all the focus will be on the incoming rookies.
That pause also allows us to reset the market in free agency. Who is still available and how might they fit the Cleveland Browns?
Yesterday we looked at defensive ends still available in NFL free agency. Today we move inside to defensive tackles.
It can get slightly complicated talking about defensive tackles because there are really two different positions on the inside. Much like free safety and strong safety, defensive tackle could mean a penetrating 3-technique or a lane-clogging nose tackle.
Here are five players still available in free agency on the interior of the defensive line with a majority more nose tackles than 3-technique players at this point in their careers:
- Al Woods - We know that Woods visited with the Browns last week but left without a contract. Nearing the end of his career, Woods is a stout run defender but will provide very little on passing downs. He hasn’t played more than 47% of his team’s snaps since 2017 when his career high was 52.6%.
- A’Shawn Robinson - Another nose tackle, Robinson has had knee issues that could impact his availability. He hasn’t played more than 46% of his team’s snaps since 2017 when his career high was 67.6%. (Yes very similar to Woods.) Robinson was one of the original players in our pre-agency mock offseason along with three players Cleveland did sign.
- Akiem Hicks - Hicks is a huge player at 6’5” and over 320 pounds. Last year with Tampa Bay, Hicks had a falloff in play. He played in just 11 games with one sack, two tackles for loss and four QB hits. The year prior, in just nine games, he had 3.5 sacks, five tackles for loss and nine hits on the quarterback.
- Matt Ioannidis - After a few nose tackles, Ioannidis a 3-technique player under 300 pounds on the list. While he has never matched his 8.5 sack total from 2019, he has been able to get pressure with 20 combined QB hits the last two seasons. Last year with Carolina, Pro Football Focus gave him a good overall grade (66.4) and an even better pass rush grade (69.1).
- Poona Ford - Ford will be just 28 this year making it surprising that he is still on the free agent list. The primary reason is likely his height. At just 5’11”, Ford doesn’t fit anyone’s prototype which is part of the reason he was undrafted. Ford has been productive with multiple sacks each of the last three seasons, playing in over 55% of his team’s snaps those years while using his low center of gravity to create leverage points.
The Browns have already added three players to the interior of their defensive line this offseason. Perhaps if they strike out in the NFL draft, signing one of these five would materialize. The visit with Woods is proof that they are not yet satisfied with the group that they have.