Welcome back to the seventh installment of the series. I am taking a deep dive into the Browns roster and how they can best fill the holes in their roster. Each day I will be releasing a different position room.
For every position room, I have outlined how the NFL structures that position on the roster. The players we have in four categories: starter, rotation (play some snaps), depth (injury backup/special teams) and other (likely cut). Then I will lay out the options currently on the roster, available in FA as well as via the draft for all 53 spots.
The average NFL team has 9.1 DLs on their roster. You want your two starters on the edge playing approximately 66% of the snaps, this is to keep them fresh and performing at maximum efficiency. Then you want two rotational pieces, likely playing around 40% of snaps each. This is due to the use of packages where you will have one or two edge players playing on the interior during obvious pass-rushing downs. The 5th edge provides depth and special teams.
Starting ED: Myles Garrett
Roster – The Browns have a superstar at the edge in Myles Garrett. His suspension has now been lifted and hopefully this offseason the Browns will begin extension talks. He has one cheap year and then a fifth-year option before he becomes extremely expensive. The Browns must make moves on the roster to be ready for the sizeable cap hit he will bring. If you had more depth at the position then you could discuss the option of trading for two first-round picks like the Raiders did with Mack after year four but currently, that isn’t an option for the Browns. The Patriots, Ravens and PFF data have shown us that coverage is a far more important factor than pass rush when building a quality defense.
Starting ED: Olivier Vernon
Roster – Vernon is due to earn $15.5 million in the final year of his current deal. Some people are discussing him taking a pay cut, this isn’t likely as he would get similar enough money on the free agency market. He has been both a consistently high performer as well as an injury-prone player in the last few years. Sacks are such a rare event, the player with the most this season (Shaquil Barrett) only achieved them on 3% of pass-rushing snaps according to PFF. The Browns can use Vernon for one more season, get the compensation pick they will be owed next offseason and then move the salary cap space to Garrett to pay for his fifth-year option.
FA – The other option is to trade Vernon and replace him with a free agent who is likely to earn a deal around five to seven million per year on a multi-year deal. This would then mean they can afford this player alongside Myles Garrett. The names you would be looking at are Shaq Lawson & Vinny Curry, both would be a downgrade on Vernon. There aren’t many FA players who would be willing to come in on a one year deal. Where you can comfortably afford a one-off $15.5 million cap hit, it isn’t sustainable over the next three years alongside Garrett.
Rotational ED: ?
FA – With no depth on the roster past the two starters, the Browns will need to use FA to add more talent. This position is currently very rich in FA which gives them a whole range of choices. The ones with great pass rushing talent are Ronald Blair, Adrian Clayborn, Jordan Jenkins, Jason Pierre-Paul, Pernell McPhee, and Benson Mayowa. There are some other names that are also available and have put up good performances but don’t excel as much in pass rush: Emmanuel Ogbah, Carl Nassib, Kerry Hyder & Aaron Lynch. This would likely be a short term deal, between one and two years.
Rotational ED: ?
Roster – A lack of depth in the Browns edge room was exposed during the second half of last season. I think we have seen enough to know that Chad Thomas isn’t the answer here.
Draft – The Browns will need to turn to the draft to add more talent, not just for this year but to hopefully step up when Vernon leaves next year. The pick could be as high as round two but might also be on day three.
Depth ED: Porter Gustin
Roster – The Browns’ best depth pass rusher on the roster last season was Porter Gustin, it is likely he makes the roster next season.
FA – The other option, who wasn’t quite as good as Gustin is Bryan Cox Jr. but he is an RFA which means he would cost much more.
Draft – This could be a position where they test the UDFA market for talent and see how people do in camp. If Porter Gustin steps up to that fourth spot in the edge room and they find a UDFA, then they can have some cheap depth.
Other: Robert McCray, Chad Thomas, Trevon Young
Check back tomorrow for the Interior Defender deep dive.
Any questions, feel free to hit me up on Twitter @JackDuffin. The DMs are open for any salary cap/roster construction questions you have.