Cleveland Browns Damion Square deal crowds roster with eight defensive tackles

Oct 25, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Damion Square (71) celebrates tackling Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew (not pictured) for a loss during the first quarter at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 25, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Damion Square (71) celebrates tackling Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew (not pictured) for a loss during the first quarter at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports /

The Cleveland Browns signed free agent Damion Square, completing the 90-player roster, and putting him in competition with the likes of Tommy Togiai, Jordan Elliott, Andrew Billings, and Malik Jackson.

The Cleveland Browns have completely filled the 90-player roster limit, signing veteran Damion Square to a one-year deal, giving them eight defensive tackles on the roster despite having limited roster space available. Teams normally carry only four defensive tackles, though five is not unheard of.

Square is in his 10th year out of the Alabama Crimson Tide, and has appeared in 91 NFL games in his career. At press time, details of his contract were not available, but it’s believed that it will be close to the NFL minimum with very little if any guaranteed. It will be a Square deal, that’s for sure.

Another veteran, Sheldon Day has played in 60 NFL games for three NFL teams prior to coming to the Browns. He will be trying to make the team as a reserve this season.

Malik McDowell was signed May 3, presumably on a non-guaranteed look-see basis at the NFL minimum after a disastrous start to his career which included getting cut and sued by the Seattle Seahawks for his bonus, and ultimately resulted in jail time. This player is an extreme long shot, but he was once a second-round draft pick. He has never played in the NFL.

More credible is the acquisition of former Florida State Seminole Marvin Wilson, who has battled knee injuries but is a former All-ACC player. If he can be rehabbed he could be a major contributor. If he’s healthy or close to it he will probably make the team.

It’s possible that he could clear waivers and be placed on the practice squad, but that might be presumptuous. Jordan Elliott had better play like a third-round draft choice in summer camp, let’s put it that way.

The Browns also drafted Tommy Togiai, the strongman from Ohio State, who can bench press the entire training room. You will recall Myles Garrett set the combine on fire by benching 33 reps. Well, Tommy, knocked out a ridiculous 40 reps at Pro Day.

You cannot always equate 40-yard dash times from different tracks and timing methods, but the bench press numbers should be solid and they indicated Tommy is pretty strong. HIs 4.97 40-yard dash was very impressive for a portly gentleman.

Malik Jackson was signed as a free agent out of the Eagles organization, where Andrew Berry got to know him well. Jackson will earn relatively high dollars ( $3,735,294), though he was not a particularly remarkable talent.

Andrew Billings is a holdover from last season, though he was inactive due to opting out from Covid-19. However, his PFF grade from 2019 was higher than Sheldon Richardson‘s 2020 grade. He should start if he has been able to maintain his edge. If not, and the Browns decide to waive him, that would be a $3.5 million dollar pill to swallow. Dee and Jimmy Haslam will not like that.

To put it in perspective, both Jackson and Square graded about the same in the Pro Football Focus system and were significantly higher than Larry Ogunjobi, but not as high as Sheldon Richardson or Billings. The other nominal starter on some depth charts is Jordan Elliott, who is actually significantly lower than the other players on the Browns roster who played enough snaps to earn a score. It’s very doubtful whether Elliott hangs onto that top position on the depth chart and some chance that he could find himself on the waiver wire if he is not careful.

Does this mean that the Browns will definitely not sign Sheldon Richardson to a contract? No. Contrary to what you have read, it does not mean that. They might have to reach the decision that they have to cut someone and take a salary cap hit, or somehow clear a roster space for a fifth defensive tackle, but the Browns have never had a complaint with Sheldon Richardson’s quality of play, only a belief that his contract needed to be refinanced. You know what? They were right.

This year the NFL is letting teams sign players to one-year contracts but spread bonus money over four or five “voidable years.” They basically are allowed to rob from future years’ salary caps, probably as a concession to the impact of Covid-19 on NFL budgets. Anyway, there’s no way that any NFL team was going to pay Sheldon Richardson $12.7 million dollars in 2021 without refinancing his deal.

Richardson and his agent might still find some love in Cleveland if they are willing to face the inevitable. It may be that the Browns are still offering top dollar compared to other real offers that they are getting. It may be a question of salvaging pride at this point and not willing to face the reality of Covid finances.

So why are the Browns throwing so much money at defensive tackles? Will they be forced to cut some guaranteed money at cutdown time? It might be that they are no convinced that Andrew Berry is going to be the same Andrew Berry that he was for the Bengals in 2019.

That player was a very good defensive tackle, not quite in the class of Sheldon Richardson but too not far from it either. Hence they have brought in quite a few rotational defensive ends in addition to a significant draft pick in fourth-rounder Tommy Togiai and two new free agents in Malik Jackson and Damion Square.

If the team was confident in Billings, they probably have a bit too much money tied up in guaranteed contracts. Even Marvin Wilson had some guarantees to sign with the club.

It would be considered tacky from a front office perspective to waive too many players with guaranteed money left on their contracts (i.e., creating “dead money” on the books). That might happen with these defensive tackles, depending on how successful the young generation is at throwing out the old guard.

In any case, the Browns have eight players and need to cut down to four, possibly five at the outside. Here, then, is a summary of the main characters and considerations:

Andrew Billings. Veteran free agent from Cincinnati comes closest to an every-down DT. $3.5 Mil guaranteed contract. Can he still play after a year of inactivity?

Malik Jackson. 10-Veteran from Philadelphia knows how to play DT, $3.7 M guaranteed contract; but cap numbers is only $1.8 M.

Tommy Togiai. This year’s Round 4 draft pick from The Ohio State University will see plenty of action and may start.

Jordan Elliot. 2nd year man needs to improve or could be forced out by hungry rookies. 2020 Round 3 pick, but lowest among DT’s receiving a grade from PFF.

Damion Square. Established nine-year NFL veteran rotational defensive tackle.

Marvin Wilson. UDFA from FSU can make the team if his knee is sound. If he is cut, there is some chance he could be signed to the Practice Squad.

Sheldon Day. This ain’t his first rodeo either, in his fourth year, with 60 games to his credit.

Aggressively early look at 53-man 2021 roster. dark. Next

Malik McDowell. A longshot, might make the Practice Squad if personal problems are being managed and he can get into football shape again after years of inactivity.