Welcome back to the ninth 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 5.9 LBs on their roster. I feel this is likely to start decreasing as teams play more and more nickel/dime packages. Teams are looking for two starters to play nearly every snap. Then having a SAM LB who will play obvious run downs where you know the other team is rushing. Then two depth players who are likely to predominately play special teams as well as showing promise at the LB position.
Starting LB: ?
FA – The Browns currently have zero starting quality LBs signed for the 2020 season. There are three top names available this offseason. The Browns could resign Joe Schobert who is a known quantity. They could also go after Blake Martinez who similar to Joe showed progress across his first three years to then regress last season. The third option is Cory Littleton who is coming off of a brilliant year. None of the three are particularly good against the run but it is certainly more of a coverage league anyway. All of these players are likely to take deals that are around $10 million a year. If the Browns want to go cheaper at the position the next best option is Nick Kwiatkoski who is likely to be around $3.5 million.
Starting LB: ?
Roster – We could see Christian Kirksey fill this role. Despite having not played well when healthy the last three years, he could be back. While he won’t make the roster with a $9 million cap hit, the Browns could cut him and allow him to test the market. After testing the FA market to access his value he could then resign with the Browns on a one year deal. This is an outside chance but doesn’t rule it out. If it did happen, it would likely be around $2m on a one year prove-it deal.
FA – The Browns could look to go very deep at the position and add Nick Kwiatkoski opposite one of the three big names in FA. The other two names to consider are Josh Bynes & Kevin Pierre-Louis. It is important to make sure we have some quality at LB because we were continually dominated against last season. Coverage is key for defense but if your run defense is a shambles then you can get gashed. You just need to have a good enough run defense, without making it a priority thus wasting resources.
Draft – If they aren’t considering FA with this pick then don’t be surprised if you see some action in the draft. A high day three draft pick might be able to provide some competition at camp. Let the winner between last year’s two picks and the one this year fight for a starting spot. It is a risky strategy but offers plenty of upside.
Rotational SLB: Sione Takitaki
Roster – We saw a good rookie season from Takitaki, he is best used in the SAM position. He can come onto the field when needed and excel in these situations. Hopefully, throughout the upcoming season, he can continue to develop and become an all-rounder at the LB position.
Depth LB: Mack Wilson
Roster – After some early performances to open the season, Wilson struggled from there on out. He was one of the worst starting LBs in the NFL according to PFF. Hopefully, he can develop across his rookie deal but any team with playoff aspirations cannot be starting him next season. One area he did perform well was special teams, which will mean he could stick around as a solid contributor on the bottom of a depth chart.
Depth LB: ?
Roster – The final spot on the roster will be an open competition between those already on the roster like Davis or Harvey.
Draft – It is likely they will add a late day three pick or a UDFA to the battle. It is a hard one to judge as it will come down to whoever performs the best in special teams drills and shows the most upside at the position.
Other: Tae Davis, Jermaine Grace, Willie Harvey, Montrel Meander, Christian Kirksey
Check back tomorrow for the Cornerback 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.