The Cleveland Browns claimed defensive end Anthony Zettel on Thursday, and the roster move could have revealed what the Browns plan on doing with the offensive line.
It was a move that the Browns needed to make because of the lack of quality depth at the position. But in order to add Zettel to the roster, the Browns had to cut a player to create a spot for Zettel.
Instead of releasing a defensive linemen, the Browns decided to cut Aaron Neary. Neary was claimed on waivers Sunday to be the team’s backup center. But now that Neary is off the roster, there is no offensive linemen that is clearly the backup center.
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That is until Browns head coach Hue Jackson announces who will be starting on the offensive line Friday. The Browns are ultimately deciding on who they want starting at left tackle, Joel Bitonio or Desmond Harrison.
But if the Browns cutting Neary is foreshadowing Jackson’s decision, then Harrison is likely going to be announced as the starting left tackle.
Starting Harrison allows Bitonio to move back to left guard, where he is one of the game’s elite at the position. That would mean rookie Austin Corbett would then move to the bench.
Corbett has been playing tackle and guard all camp, but he also received some reps playing center during the off-season. The Browns may have Corbett become the backup center now that Neary is gone.
Although the Browns drafted Corbett hoping that he could be a tackle, many draft analysts saw him destined to being a guard or center. And center may be his best long-term position with the Browns, since Bitonio and Kevin Zeitler are two of the best guards in the NFL.
Harrison becoming the starter would be another surprise for the Browns. Signed as an undrafted free agent, Harrison missed the first two weeks of camp due to a toe injury, and only started getting game reps late in the preseason. But despite his undrafted status, Harrison is a talented lineman. And he could be the Browns’ future at left tackle.
It may seem crazy that a defensive line waiver claim could reveal who the Browns start at left tackle. But Jackson has said his mind has been made up on who to start for the past couple of days, and Neary’s release could have been a sign of things to come.