The Cleveland Browns are expected to move on from pending free agent and former starter Joe Schobert at middle linebacker. Who can replace him?
The free agent is expected to sign elsewhere one free agency begins later in March.
It wasn't an unexpected move, but it still is hard for fans to hear as Schobert is clearly a favorite of many who frequent the Dawg Pound.
This begs the question of possible replacement for Joe Schobert. With free agency and the draft soon underway this spring, here are three players who can possibly replace Schobert for next season.
No. 1: Sione Takitaki
Sione Takitaki, the third-round draft choice from a year ago, may just get the first crack at the open middle linebacker job for the Cleveland Browns. Takitaki finished last season with 21 tackles, most of those on special teams.
Last training camp, the News Harald had reported that Takitaki was in a battle for the starting job in training camp, eventually won by Schobert. So while it is a good sign that he was challenging Schobert for playing time last offseason, it did not translate to the field once the season began.
Takitaki in limited defensive reps looked a little overwhelmed when pressed into duty last season. But with a full offseason coming up to work on his craft, Takitaki does have the physical tools to be a good linebacker in this league. Let's see if he has what it takes to earn a starting job as this offseason rolls along.
No. 2: Joe Bachie, ILB Michigan State
Replacing one former Big Ten "Joe" linebacker with another in this scenario would be an interesting move. By all accounts, this tackling machine from Michigan State is one of the smarter players at the position in this draft, something Schobert was routinely praised for while playing in Cleveland.
At this point Bachie is projecting as a middle-round pick so the Browns would still be able to use its early picks on other positions of need in the draft. The former All-Big Ten player was suspended for the last half of last season for using an over the counter supplement that was banned by the Big Ten.
Bachie, a Berea Ohio native, posted a nice 4.67 40 yard dash time at the combine, helping combat the narrative that the only has below-average linebacker speed. And with being as good of a tackler as he is, Bachie could raise some eyebrows during training camp and earn a starting job next season.
No. 3: Nick Kwiatkoski, Free Agent
Free-agent Nick Kwiatkoski from the Chicago Bears would be an intriguing option for the Browns. Kwiatkoski filled in at inside linebacker for Danny Trevathan last season and shined in the starting role. He finished the season with 76 tackles and three sacks while playing really well against the run.
The question would be is what will Kwiatkoski command in the open market? The 26 year-old is entering the prime of his NFL career however he only has started the final seven games from a season ago.
He could be a cheaper version of Schobert, who is reportedly asking for north of $10 million per season. If the Browns find his price to be more reasonable, Kwiatkosi makes a ton of sense for Cleveland when free agency opens in a couple of weeks.