The club has rolled through a cornucopia of players with varying success, from Nate Orchard to Carl Nassib, Chris Smith, Anthony Zettel, Chad Thomas, Adrian Clayborn, Olivier Vernon and Jadeveon Clowney, just to name a few.
The quest continued anew this offseason, and general manager Andrew Berry may have hit the mark with the acquisition of defensive end Za’Darius Smith, who comes in at No. 84 in the annual list of the league’s top 100 players as selected by their peers.
Smith has made three out of the last four Pro Bowls on two different teams. In his eighth season, the pass rusher led the Vikings with 24 QB hits and 15 tackles for loss. Smith was only one of two Vikings (Danielle Hunter) in 2022 to record 10 or more sacks. Despite his trade to Cleveland this offseason, Smith has proven he can still pressure quarterbacks in the pocket.
In his eight seasons in the league - four with the Baltimore Ravens, three with the Green Bay Packers and last season with the Minnesota Vikings - Smith has totaled 54.5 sacks, 136 quarterback hits and 68 tackles for loss.
He has also posted a pass-rush grade of 84 or higher in three of the past four seasons from Pro Football Focus, and while his work defending the run has been spotty, he has only posted one season out of the past six with a grade below 60, which for the Browns is outstanding.
Berry has not tired in his quest to find a player to take some of the heat off Garrett and provide some additional pressure to opposing quarterbacks. And if the league’s players are to be believed, he may have succeeded this year with the acquisition of Smith as part of Cleveland’s rebuilt defensive line.
The players who just missed this year's #NFLTop100 cut:— NFL Films (@NFLFilms) July 25, 2023
110. Quandre Diggs
109. Cordarrelle Patterson
108. Kevin Byard
107. James Bradberry
106. Joel Bitonio
105. T.J. Hockenson
104. Jimmie Ward
103. Alvin Kamara
102. Jordyn Brooks
101. DK Metcalf pic.twitter.com/cx0SxqfB4D
And speaking of the league’s players, it’s not clear if it is jealousy, laziness, or simply not appreciating the body of work, but somehow left guard Joel Bitonio - a two-time First-Team All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowl selection - somehow did not make the Top 100 list, “just missing the cut” at No. 106.
There are a few opposing defensive players who are going to pay for that omission come the fall.