Cleveland Browns: Jayon Brown would be an impact free agent LB pickup

NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 25: James Conner #30 of the Pittsburgh Steelers fumbles the ball when tackled in the first half by Jayon Brown #55 of the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium on October 25, 2020 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Steelers defeated the Titans 27-24. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 25: James Conner #30 of the Pittsburgh Steelers fumbles the ball when tackled in the first half by Jayon Brown #55 of the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium on October 25, 2020 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Steelers defeated the Titans 27-24. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Browns could use a linebacker, clearly.

The Cleveland Browns defense was not a stellar unit last season. That was glaringly obvious, and although they did generate their share of turnovers, Cleveland’s pass defense was only 22nd. In a general sense, it was apparent Cleveland’s strength was their offense, as you, your brother, sister, and local McDonald’s franchisee knew.

Looking at the offseason, Cleveland could use a cornerback on the opposite side of Denzel Ward, and via the draft, that could come courtesy of Jaycee Brown, Asante Samuel Jr., Ifeatu Melifonwu, and/or Thomas Graham Jr., for instance.

And as DPD’s Sam Penix detailed, Cleveland needs to, one way or the other, find a quality EDGE opposite Myles Garrett. Olivier Vernon, who tore his Achilles in Week 17, doesn’t seem to be in the cards, and is unrestricted.

All of that said, even while linebacker isn’t as much of a need, frankly, in today’s league, the Browns need one that can be a key contributor.

Mack Wilson had his struggles last season, and though Jacob Phillips flashed, he couldn’t stay healthy (knee) enough to contribute regularly. Phillips is not a coverage guy at this point, either, albeit he did show some promise, and looks to be a highly capable run defender.

Nonetheless, B.J. Goodson shouldn’t be back, and though he did lead Cleveland in tackles with 91, Goodson is more so suited to be a reserve, and nobody’s confusing him with being a linebacker known for his quickness. Aside from a veteran presence, Goodson left much to be desired. On the plus side, Sione Takitaki graded out well last season, and though there are some inconsistencies, looks to be an emerging player.

Anyhow, for Cleveland and to aid their pass defense, Jayon Brown, who played his first four seasons with the Tennessee Titans and has mostly been a starter for the past three, is a logical free agency target.

Brown would be an impact linebacker pickup for the Browns.

Brown isn’t a big linebacker at 6-foot and 226 pounds, but his abilities in coverage would make him a sensible free agency target for Cleveland. Brown is capable of manning up against running backs, but he could help Cleveland particularly peeling off in zone. Between the numbers, Brown has made his share of plays for the Titans.

One would think that he could aid Cleveland’s defense of crossers and at times choice routes for backs, and could be proficient in helping along the seam with his quickness and being able to get proper depth to break up looks to tight ends.

Here was more on Brown’s expertise/his zone feel/playmaking, via the Pro Football Focus staff, who had the UCLA product listed at #53 in their ranking of the top 150 impending free agents.

"“Another undersized, modern-day linebacker, Brown has earned the 10th-best coverage grade in the league since 2018. His profile is eerily similar to Matt Milano’s – they’re plus coverage players, below-average run defenders and both have a fifth-round pedigree.The one difference is stylistic, as Milano has done his best work when lined up in single coverage while Brown has perfomed best in zone. Brown also has the fourth-best forced incompletion percentage since 2017, so he will get his hands on the ball in the middle of the field.” —"

PFF then predicted that Tennessee would go on to re-sign Brown via a four-year, $47.5 million deal, with $22.5 million total guaranteed.

Albeit while the Browns, who, per Over The Cap, are set to have in the ballpark of $21.7 million in cap space, again do have needs at corner and EDGE, with how Brown has often made his presence in coverage between the numbers, one couldn’t fault the Browns for pursuing him.

Keep in mind, again, Brown is undersized, but with coverage viability paramount now more than ever for linebackers, his worth would show in that realm. Plus, Brown, though he’s not going to be an All-World run defender, has been a reliable tackler. In his past three seasons, he’s had missed tackle rates of 9.3 percent, 5.4, and 8.4 percent last season.

Moreover, for the Cleveland Browns, while they do need to address corner (via the draft, perhaps) and look to help solidify EDGE, and maybe in the draft they could target Rashad Weaver or Dayo Odeyingbo, Brown would likely be an impact contributor. He’d aid their tackling in space, from a coverage standpoint, and could fit their timeline long-term with him only turning 26 later this month.

Of course, Brown did have his last campaign cut to 10 games because of a dislocated and fractured elbow.

However, it would appear that he could be good to go for next season, feasibly, as PFF seemingly noted, and one could foresee as being a budding playmaker for the Orange and Brown for years to come. That’d be alongside Takitaki, to some extent, Phillips, who looks to be more of a thumper/blitzer looking onward.

We’ll ultimately have to see if Brown ends up with Cleveland/if Tennessee ends up re-signing him, anyhow.

And I’m not reading much into Brown’s passer rating when targeted being 115.3 last season, honestly, as that Titans defense altogether was underwhelming. His coverage prowess has been shown plenty enough in his career overall, and he had a notable eight passes defensed in 2019, and last season that was also the case.

Next. OBJ to Tampa Bay rumor floated. dark

He’s had three interceptions over the past three seasons and in terms of last season, forced two fumbles, too. So keep an eye out for Brown as a potential free agency target for the Browns.