The Cleveland Browns doubled up on linebackers in the 2019 NFL Draft, and it could affect two veteran Cleveland linebackers.
The Cleveland Browns were expected to add a couple of linebackers in the 2019 NFL Draft, but it was uncertain how highly they valued their need at the position.
It became apparent that they valued the position fairly high, drafting BYU linebacker Sione Takitaki in the third round and Alabama linebacker Mack Wilson, who some viewed as a top-five linebacker in the class, in the fifth round.
One of the two linebackers are expected to be a starter in their rookie season and will play next to Christian Kirksey and Joe Schobert, two leaders on the Browns defense. Genard Avery was slated to be a starter, but playing as an off-ball linebacker is not his best position.
More from Dawg Pound Daily
- How the Browns could maximize Nick Chubb in 2023
- Can Deshaun Watson get to Patrick Mahomes level for Cleveland Browns?
- 3 Cleveland Browns who should see an expanded role in 2023 and 1 who should not
- Is Marcus Davenport on the Browns radar in 2023?
- 5 Free agents from Super Bowl LVII Cleveland Browns should target
Avery excelled playing off the edge and rushing the passer, so having one of the rookies start at outside linebacker will allow him to play a position where he had more of an impact. The rookies may have an impact on the veteran linebackers and their status with the team – maybe not in 2019, but for the long-term future.
Browns general manager John Dorsey may view Takitaki and Wilson as the future of Cleveland’s linebacker corps, leaving an uncertain future for Kirksey and Schobert. Even before the 2019 NFL Draft, there were questions about the future of the two veterans with the team.
Schobert is entering the final year of his contract and is a prime candidate for an extension. He is the on-field brains of the defense and has been able to make plays all over the field. He is also one of the best linebackers in the NFL in coverage. However, the Browns have not made a deal on an extension for him yet.
Kirksey is strong against the run and has proven to be a reliable tackler. And over the past several seasons, he has emerged as the emotional leader of the defense. However, he has the seventh-highest cap hit in the league among inside linebackers, according to Spotrac, and it remains to be seen if he could put up that type of production after returning from injury.
Because Schobert is expected to be paid like a top linebacker and Kirksey already is being paid like a top linebacker, their futures with the Browns could be in doubt. Schobert’s name has already been floated around in trade rumors this offseason, although those were shot down rather quickly. And after the 2019 season, Kirksey’s dead cap if he were traded or cut will not be as substantial as it would be this season.
Dorsey has not shied away from moving on players from previous regimes and will do just about anything to get his “guys” on the field. And with the salary cap tightening on the Browns, they may roll with the younger linebackers instead of paying the veterans.
In rookie mini-camp, Takitaki has been playing as the inside linebacker with Wilson playing next to him as the off-ball linebacker. This may change when the full roster gets back together, but it is something to worth watching the rest of the summer because it could give a sign about how the Browns’ coaching staff feels they are best suited to play in the defense.
This is not to say moving on from Schobert and/or Kirksey in place of Wilson and Takitaki would be the smart decision for the Browns. But with the way things have trended under Dorsey, it certainly seems like a possibility.