The Cleveland Browns are reportedly interested defensive tackle Mike Daniels, a player the Browns should heavily pursue until he is signed.
NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported that the Browns are expected to pursue Daniels because of the connections Cleveland’s front office has with him. Cleveland also had trade talks with Green Bay about Daniels, according to Garafolo.
The Browns are also the first team Daniels will be visiting with, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Daniels is visiting the Browns on Thursday.
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John Dorsey, Eliot Wolf, and Alonzo Highsmith were all members of Green Bay’s personnel department when Daniels was drafted in 2012. Those connections make it extremely likely that the Browns will be pursuing Daniels until he decides to sign, especially with Cleveland’s need for interior depth.
The Browns have already attempted to sign a top veteran defensive tackle this offseason when Gerald McCoy became available. But after not being able to secure his services, the Browns should do everything in their power to convince Daniels to join the Dawg Pound.
During his seven seasons with the Packers, Daniels proved to be a force in the middle of their defensive line. In 102 games, including 72 starts, Daniels made 236 tackles, 47 tackles for loss, 29 sacks, two forced fumbles, and 68 quarterback hits.
Although Daniels had a down year in 2018 compared to his previous seasons, he was still creating problems for offenses due to his pass rushing ability. In 10 games last season, Daniels had 32 total pressures, according to Pro Football Focus. He was graded as the eighth-best pass rusher among interior defensive lineman in 2018 by PFF.
The Browns would welcome Daniels’ ability as a pass rusher after finishing 22nd in sacks last season with 37 total. But one of the biggest areas the Browns need to improve on from last season is their run defense, allowing the fifth-most rushing yards in the league in 2018. That is where Daniels presence would be a game-changer for Cleveland.
From 2015-2017, Daniels was one of the best interior defensive linemen at stopping the run. According to Ben Cooper of PFF, Daniels had the 13th-best run defense grade for interior defensive linemen during that three-year span.
The Browns know they need to address their defensive tackle depth before the regular season starts, which is why they pursued McCoy and why they are expected to pursue Daniels. Although Trevon Coley will be a better role player instead of starter, there is still plenty of room for improvement for the No. 3 defensive tackle role.
Signing Daniels and slotting him as the No. 3 defensive tackle will create a lot of flexibility for the Browns defensive front. They would be able to keep their interior defensive linemen fresher for an entire game, allowing them to perform better when taking on blocks, which would ultimately help the team’s run defense.
Cleveland would also be able to ride with whoever is performing the best throughout the course of a game, whether it be Daniels, Larry Ogunjobi, or Sheldon Richardson. By giving the Browns coaching staff multiple options to play with, it gives them a better chance to get the best out of the defense.
By being in a strong three-man defensive tackle rotation, Daniels would have a good shot at rebounding off a down year. But because of his performance over the course of his career, he still could be looking to get paid with whoever he signs with. The Browns are one of the contenders who currently have cap space to use without making moves to clear space, so Cleveland could make the best offer for Daniels right away.
It may only make sense for the Browns to sign Daniels to a one-year deal, but they should do what they can to make a deal happen with Daniels. As was the case with McCoy, Daniels has the ability to help transform Cleveland’s defense. If the Browns truly see themselves as Super Bowl contenders in 2019, Daniels could be one of the puzzle pieces they are missing.
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