Cleveland Browns: What is Barkevious Mingo’s true value?


Cleveland Browns outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo is on the roster bubble. Here are some reasons why he will not make the final roster.

With the first cuts coming next week, the Cleveland Browns have a serious decision to make with Barkevious Mingo. Entering his fourth season, Mingo has failed to live up to his lofty high draft status.

Expectation were high for Mingo when the Browns made him the sixth overall pick out of LSU in the 2013 NFL Draft. The Browns were transitioning from a 4-3 base defense to a 3-4 base defense under then new hire Ray Horton.

Paul Kruger had just signed a five-year deal and Mingo was drafted to be the Robin to Kruger’s Batman at the outside linebacker positions. Together they were supposed to provide the disruptive pass rush the 3-4 needs to be successful.

In addition, Jabaal Sheard was transitioning from a 4-3 defensive end to outside linebacker as a transition player until Mingo was ready. Except Mingo never got ready. He never translated his speed, power and amazing playmaking ability from LSU to the NFL.

In his first season, Mingo had five sacks in 15 games. He progressed through the season as anyone would hope a rookie would, showing flashes of being able to rush the passer. But also looked very much the rookie.

Heading into Mingo’s second season, the Browns fired head coach Rob Chudzinski and, along with him, Horton, whose defense Mingo was drafted to play in. Hired in their place Mike Pettine, who brought with him the famous Buddy Ryan 46 and multiple front 3-4 defense.

The Ryan style of defense is predicated on using man-press with the corners allowing the front seven to rush the passer with reckless abandon. This seemed a perfect fit for Mingo. So much so that Cian Fahey, then a contributor to Bleacher Report, argued that Mingo would become a “household name” in the Ryan-style defense.

Related: Is a bigger Barkevious Mingo better?

Unfortunately, that never materialized as well. During the first game of his second season Mingo suffered a shoulder injury. Instead of going on injured reserve, he sought to play through the injury. Combined with transitioning to playing as a cover linebacker, it was all too much for Mingo to handle. He finished the season with two sacks in 15 games and his play was less than stellar.

The 2015 season did not prove much better. Heading into the season, questions arose about Mingo’s ability to rush the passer as he had yet to show much progress in the area of pass rushing moves. Nor did he show much progress in coverage.

Mingo relied too much upon his athletic ability and never seemed to develop the pass rush or coverage skills necessary to compete in the NFL. His third season turned out worse than his second. Mingo was not progressing although, in all fairness, nobody had a good season last year under then defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil.

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Like his predecessors, Pettine was fired and a new staff brought in. In what should have been a good omen for Mingo, head coach Hue Jackson rehired (technically extended the contract) Horton as defensive coordinator.

Unfortunately bringing Horton back has not helped Mingo overcome his on-field difficulties. Horton likes “big men that can run and little men that can hit,” but given Mingo’s stated weight of 240 pounds, which may be more like 220 pounds, the question is which category does he fit. Is Mingo a big man who can run or a little man who can hit?

Mingo sought to resolve that question by gaining a reported 20 pounds this off-season, which would technically put him up to 260 pounds. However, he now looks more like 240 pounds. The NFL prefers bigger outside linebackers who can take on offensive linemen in the run game, but Mingo lacks the size to be effective in that role. As a result, the Browns drafted two outside linebackers in the 2016 NFL Draft.

The plan was to give Mingo a shot at outside linebacker, inside linebacker and possibly even at safety. Up to this point, Mingo has proven ineffective in all those options. He still fails to set an edge and effectively rush the passer from the outside. Although he flashed at inside linebacker last week against the Atlanta Falcons, it may not be enough to beat out undrafted free agent Dominique Alexander. Mingo has yet to take the field as a safety.

If Mingo does not work himself into the Browns plans soon, he may be on the cutting block, especially considering the Browns declined to pick up his fifth-year option. The only thing that may keep him on the team is the $5.2 million in dead cap space he represents.

If the Browns keep him this season and let him leave via free agency after the year, another team may be able to resurrect his career and the Browns may get a compensatory pick.

Next: Josh McCown no longer a priority in Dallas

What do you think Browns fans? Where does Mingo’s greatest value lie? As an outside linebacker? Inside linebacker? Or compensatory draft pick?