Browns raise defensive floor in free agency
The Cleveland Browns made some much needed improvements to their defense in the first few days of free agency.
It was not a pretty performance from the Cleveland Browns defensively last season. A combination of an inexcusable defensive scheme from Joe Woods and players who were not simply good enough resulted in what many hoped to be an improved unit ending up as a disappointment. Woods and several of those players are now gone. Cleveland has a fresh start on defense with new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and in order for him to be successful the defense needed help. The Browns went out and made some additions which should raise the floor or baseline of the defense.
Cleveland agreed to deals with Dalvin Tomlinson and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo on the first day of the legal tampering period. The defensive line sans-Myles Garrett was a complete disaster and was a clear area of concern. Tomlinson provides a stout presence in the middle of the defense which should help create interior pressure which was non-existent last year. Okoronkwo is expected to play a key role opposite Garrett in place of the now departed Jadeveon Clowney. Okoronkwo is yet to play more than 44% of snaps in a season and that is a big concern. The hope is that Okoronkwo is able to translate last season’s late success over the course of 17 games this season. The Browns would be wise to consider augmenting Okoronkwo with another defensive end to split time as needed.
The defensive line was not the only area that the Browns front office addressed. Cleveland’s secondary was also a complete disaster and needed some help. In their quest to improve that unit they moved on from John Johnson and replaced him with safety Juan Thornhill. Thornhill should be able to provide a more stable presence on the back end of the Browns defense.
Important signings do not have to be at the top of the market
The big takeaway here is while none of their signings were the top guy on the market, they are still an improvement over last season (hopefully). These are the type of signings that raise the floor of a defense and closes the gap with the ceiling. Cleveland has their fair share of quality defensive players, but have been surrounded by subpar talent over the last two seasons. Providing supplementary talent to their best players is a way to lessen their level of variance. This leads to the team being more consistent and ultimately better. These signings in particular (and a few more) could make it so the defense is no longer a major liability.