What did Cleveland Browns land in Malcolm Smith?
The Cleveland Browns have recently added a veteran to their linebacker depth. Malcolm Smith is brought in, presumably, to start. Will he be able to make an impact on this defense? Are there better options in free agency?
Malcolm Smith is not a bad addition to this defense, but is he the best option? Statistically speaking, he is not. Not by a wide margin.
There are three other options that would also have been beneficial to the Browns, all of which are younger, and two who have better statistics.
The two years that Malcolm Smith started full seasons, he had over 100 tackles. In fact, Smith was a Super Bowl MVP in 2013 with the Seattle Seahawks. This was two years before he would become a starter for the first time in his career, for the Oakland Raiders.
Will he stay healthy, end up starting, and be an impact for this defense? Maybe, almost certain, and probably not. He has not played a full season since 2015, his best year. Smith is a veteran but he’s not the answer in the middle for the season.
The team will be spending more money on free agent linebackers.
Seeing how the team will be looking for other options in the middle, let us take a look at what is available still. Alec Ogletree, Darron Lee, and Preston Brown are all available still. All of them are younger and two of the three are more accomplished statistically.
Ogletree has been a starter since he came into the league and has started every game he has played in. That in itself is a reason to grab a solid vet for a season and bring him in to solidify the middle for this defense.
Darron Lee and Alec Ogletree are both former first round picks. Lee is the youngest of the three players mentioned, but could be a young player to add to a team that is lacking depth in their linebacker corps. Adding Lee would be a risk in the sense of youth and lack of playing time, but still an option to consider with plenty of talent being a former first round pick.
Alec Ogletree and Preston Brown are the older, veteran, more accomplished players. Either player would have been the better option on paper. The last couple years of each of their careers they have slowed down and have not been as consistent. That raises some red flags but with their experience at a high level throughout their careers, it would be worth looking at one of them for future considerations.
Smith has an impressive resume, but he might not have been the best option out there. Still, there was something the Browns saw that they truly liked.