Welcome back to the eleventh 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. Every few days 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 free agency as well as via the draft for all 53 spots.
The average NFL team has 10.0 DBs on their roster. With teams carrying six CBs the average NFL team would only take 4 safeties but consider the predicted drop in LBs, that spot would be filled with a seventh corner or a fifth safety. We don’t know if Woods wants his nickel to be built with three corners or three safeties as a base, this will change how they breakdown the 11 defensive backs. Two starters, plus a third player who is either a starter in nickel or rotating in for dime packages depending on the scheme/situation.
Starting FS: ?
Roster – In the past four years, we have only seen four safeties come out in year one and hit the ground running with great performances as a starter Derwin James, Jessie Bates, Marcus Williams, and John Johnson. For that reason, it would be unwise to pencil Grant Delpit in as a starter coming off an injury that cost him his entire rookie season. By no means is this giving up on him, it’s about continuing to add more talent across the room where the worst-case scenario doesn’t leave us short.
FA – As with every season, safety is more or less unique across the league for there always being players available to sign in free agency. This year the headline names are Justin Simmons, Anthony Harris, Marcus Williams, Marcus Maye, and John Johnson III. It feels like Simmons & Maye will be tagged or extended. Williams and Johnson are likely available due to their team’s dire cap situations. Harris saw a regression in 2020 along with the entire Vikings defense, after two phenomenal years where he was a top 3 safety for PFF. Harris being older than the other two likely means the Browns front office would pass.
Draft – For the reasons above with Delpit it would be risky to rely on a day 1/2 pick to come in and be a starter they could balance the risk by having two very talented youngsters, chances are at least one of the two should be able to produce. Then have some cheap veteran depth for security.
Starting SS: Ronnie Harrison
Roster – Andrew Berry committed what can only be described as a robbery when he got Harrison for a 5th round pick from Jacksonville. He had been a solid but unspectacular safety for two years who struggled in run defense. Everything clicked in 2020 as he moved closer to the line of scrimmage and we saw improved performance across the entire board especially in run defense. His health is the biggest issue but his play certainly earned him an extension in Cleveland which could be completed this offseason at a discount or they wait the year out to answer the health question and see if he can repeat his performance level.
Starting Nickel/Rotational Dime S: Grant Delpit
It is hard to predict at this stage what this role is in a Woods defense. It is a third safety that will play over 75% of snaps due to a three safety nickel base or is it a player that will only play around 25% of snaps when they are in dime packages. Woods didn’t have the defensive backs he needed last year to play his scheme so there isn’t much to judge it on, he liked his three safeties with the 49ers but this could just be a talent decision over the scheme.
Roster – This is a great spot for Delpit on the roster. He would be incredibly talented across the NFL as a 5th/6th defensive back. Despite being a safety he has the talent to play slot corner too. They could easily push him deep as well if they want to roll coverage post-snap or during a drive. His ceiling is incredibly high and could outperform all expectations and give the Browns the strongest safety trio in the league for the next three years.
Depth S: ?
Depth S: ?
Once we know how Woods plans to split the nickel defense we will know if this is one or two-depth safeties. There are likely to be a total of three depth defensive backs across the corner and safety room. These are going to be predominantly special teams roles with maybe one of the three having starter level upside, likely a day three draft pick they hope to develop.
Roster – The only player on the roster likely to have a shot here is Sheldrick Redwine, he didn’t do much of anything last season when given an opportunity. The fact Sendejo was keeping him off the field speaks volumes for where the team sees him. They might give him one last shot if he steps up in camp but they likely go another direction as his special teams’ play is nothing special.
FA – They could look to return Karl Joseph if he wants to sign a cheap one-year contract. A year ago I called him criminally underrated but he produced his worst year in the NFL last season. They might hope for more and having him buried as an option rather than a starter. The one outside name the Browns should chase is Malik Hooker, he has been injured and would come cheap on a one-year deal but offers the Browns maximum upside if they want to go with Delpit and another day 2 draft pick. Signing a player like Hooker or Joseph in free agency means there is no barrier to Delpit or a draft pick if they hit. If they pay big money to someone it is unlikely they draft someone on the first two days as there is no room for them to play alongside Harrison and Delpit.
Draft – Once they get to day three of the draft, they could certainly add someone to throw into the mix. It is about chasing as much upside as possible and seeing what happens.
Other: Jovante Moffatt, Elijah Benton
Check back Friday for the Special Teams deep dive & conclusion.
Any questions, feel free to hit me up on Twitter @JackDuffin. The DMs are open for any salary cap/roster construction questions you have.