Cleveland Browns biggest needs and potential free agents to target
Interior Defensive Line
The Cleveland Browns were one of the worst teams against the run in 2018, allowing 135.2 rushing yards per game and an average of 4.7 yards per carry. That ranked fifth and eighth worst in the league in 2018.
Cleveland has a future star in defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi. However, the Browns need to find a defensive tackle that can play next to him. Trevon Coley was the starter next to Ogunjobi, but would fit better in a role as a third defensive tackle.
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Adding a defensive tackle should be one of the biggest priorities for Dorsey and company this off-season. Luckily for Cleveland, there are solid interior defensive linemen set to be free agents.
Grady Jarrett will be one of the top free agents available in 2019, and is going to be the target for any team that needs help on the interior defensive line. The 25-year-old is a force in the middle of the line, both in the pass game and run game.
In 2018, Jarrett made 52 total tackles, eight tackles for loss, six sacks, 16 quarterback hits and three forced fumbles in 14 games. Just a year prior, Jarrett made 15 tackles for loss in 16 games.
Jarrett will be an expensive free agent and there will be a lot of suitors for his services, if he can make it to the open market. If the Browns were to give out a lucrative contract this off-season, Jarrett should be the guy. He would sure up the run defense up the middle, and will also make it easier for Ogunjobi, Myles Garrett, Emmanuel Ogbah, and Genard Avery to get in the backfield.
Malcom Brown has been one of the better run stuffing defensive tackles in the league in his first three seasons in the NFL. However, the 24-year-old did not perform up to those standards in 2018. In 2016 and 2017, Pro Football Focus gave Brown run defense grades of 83.3 and 85.1. In 2018, that number dropped all the way to 60.3.
Overall, most of the Patriots defense fell off this season following the departure of Matt Patricia. Brown made 39 total tackles and one quarterback hit. He did not register a tackle for loss or a sack.
He is not a dynamic pass rusher that Jarrett can be or even as good against the run. However, he will come at a cheaper cost and has shown the ability to be very good against the run. The Browns need a guy that can stuff the run up the middle, and Brown can do that. Surrounding himself with a defensive line like the Browns have could also have a positive impact on Brown’s performance.
Rodney Gunter will enter the free agent market as one of the least talked about interior defensive linemen, mainly because he was playing for the Cardinals this season. However, Gunter played extremely well in an expanded role this season, and he could find himself with multiple suitors.
Gunter played in all 16 games in 2018, starting ten. He made a combined 44 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, and nine quarterback hits. It was the best season that the 26-year-old has had in his career.
Gunter was better against the run than he was against the pass, but he showed a lot of capabilities rushing the passer. If the Browns do not want to spend a lot of money in free agency but still address their needs, Gunter should be an option.