Can Browns Answer Nose Tackle Need In Free Agency Still?
The Cleveland Browns were the worst team in the NFL last year at stopping the run. Much of the issue revolved around poor play at the nose tackle position. Phil Taylor is much better suited, with his style of play, as a 3 technique defensive end in the Browns 3-4. He always tries to penetrate instead of anchoring. This allows the offense to move him and create big holes. Ahtyba Rubin, now with Seattle, was not stout enough and was often just pushed back 3 or 4 yards.
Outside of quarterback and maybe wide receiver on offense, nose tackle spot was the Browns biggest problem going into the off-season. They signed Randy Starks, who can fill in at the nose some but doesn’t have the ability to anchor the way the Browns need. John Hughes, injured much of last year, had his contract extended and is suited for the nose but that isn’t his best position.
In Free Agency the Browns saw Dan Williams, Terrance Knighton and Kenrick Ellis sign with other teams. Yet could the Browns still answer their nose tackle need in free agency? There are three players on the market that could be upgrades, none of which have been linked to the Browns. None have gotten a lot of interest in free agency for different reasons.
The former Seattle Seahawk and Jacksonville Jaguar, Bryant was cut by the Jags after only one season. Bryant, similar to Taylor, has the body type of a nose tackle but plays better in a 1 or 3 technique. As he ages, Bryant may not be able to play a lot of snaps but as a 2 down nose tackle he could hold his ground. With the Seahawks signing Rubin, Bryant’s best chance may be Dan Quinn with the Atlanta Falcons or the Browns who have been emulating the former champions.
The former Green Bay Packer missed all of last year due to injury. He has played multiple roles in his career with the Pack and could take a 1 year prove it contract from the Browns to try to regain his value. Most believe Raji will re-sign with Green Bay but they may have moved on. Raji for a year could give the Browns time to develop a rookie for the position. His injury history and questions whether he can really hold the point of attack for a full season linger and could lead the Browns to passing.
McDonald was released by the San Francisco 49ers when he was charged with rape last year. He was fully cleared of all charges but the sting of that lingers a bit for the free agent. McDonald played mostly defensive end in the Niners 3-4 defense but played nose for Florida in college some. The 6’3″ 290 pound defensive lineman is a little light to fill the role full time but as a part of a rotation and with his talent and experience, the Browns could upgrade by adding him.
None of the 3 options are perfect but they could be reasonable upgrades for not a great deal of cost. Each has their questions and none have a history as the primary nose for a team. Yet all of their size and talent could keep the Browns from having to force a pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. According to reports, the Browns have shown interest in a number of possible NT options for the draft:
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Obviously the Browns see a need that fans also see. Bryant, Raji and McDonald could be part of the run defensive that was terrible last year. Any upgrade would be an improvement. Much like Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline give the Browns options at receiver, any of these three could do the same thing at the nose tackle. They are still available for a reason and likely would come pretty cheap.
Do you think any of these players are options for the Browns to fill their nose tackle needs?