Should the Cleveland Browns give Johnathan Hankins a look?
By Dan Justik
With the offseason practically over, the former Colts defensive tackle is surprisingly still a free agent. Should the Cleveland Browns give him a look before training camp?
The Cleveland Browns do not have a huge hole at defensive tackle, even after trading Danny Shelton this offseason. But it is never a bad thing to have too much talent. Adding Johnathan Hankins to an already stacked defensive line could take the defense to the next level.
Hankins was cut this offseason after signing a three-year, $27 million deal with the Indianapolis Colts last offseason. But after a scheme change this season, Hankins was let go. After drawing a lot of interest from the free agent market initially, he remains a free agent.
The reason why Hankins is likely still a free agent is the money he is asking for. He struggled to find a team a last year until the Colts decided to pay him $9 million per year. If it is the same case this year, the Browns have the cap space to give Hankins the money he wants.
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Cleveland may not want to give him a long-term contract, and at this point in the offseason, Hankins may want a one-year deal to hit the market again next year with more interested teams.
So why should the Browns give him a look? Hankins is one of the better interior linemen in the NFL and a solid run stuffer. With the trade of Shelton, the Browns don’t have a true run stopper. Hankins is more athletic than Shelton, so he would not be limited to just being a gap clogger like Shelton was.
Larry Ogunjobi is going to be a starter this year after playing very well in limited playing time last season. If the Browns were to sign Hankins, they could play Ogunjobi as the three-technique and Hankins play the one-technique.
With these two up the middle, they could generate plenty of pressure up the middle. Although Hankins is known for being a run stopper because of his size, he can still get to the quarterback. In his five year career, he has compiled 12 sacks, including a seven sack season in 2014.
With these two putting pressure up the middle, it would force the quarterback to scramble outside of the pocket. By doing that, they would be taking a chance by trying to run to the edge past dominant pass-rushers Emmanuel Ogbah and Myles Garrett.
However, it seems that the Browns are comfortable with the players they have in house. With Ogunjobi, Trevon Coley, Jamie Meder, and Caleb Brantley already on the roster, Cleveland has not added any defensive tackles this offseason.
What the Browns have done is added versatile defensive ends that can kick inside when needed. It appears that defensive coordinator Gregg Williams prefers athletic, versatile lineman instead of the traditional gap-filling defensive tackles. So Hankins may not be on the Browns radar, even if they are looking for a defensive tackle.
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But should the Browns feel that their run defense needs work, Hankins should be the first player they call. But he may not be a free agent long, as he is one best available free agents currently and teams may want to get him inside their building before training camp.