The Cleveland Browns could look to upgrade their linebacking corps in 2022 and if so, they could target any of these four free agents
Cleveland Browns linebackers aren’t usually household names, and you won’t usually be wearing their home jersey down at First Energy Stadium these days.
However, that trend may have started to change with this past NFL draft when the team drafted Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah from Notre Dame, who has quickly become a fan favorite. He had a very respectable rookie season where his speed, tackling, and knack for making a play were usually on full display. He finished with 76 tackles, forced two fumbles, and had four quarterback hits and one and a half sacks.
Cleveland’s core group of linebackers, including Sione Takitaki, Mack Wilson, Jacob Phillips, and Tony Fields are all very young. Phillips is still only 22 years old, and Wilson is just 23 years old. Anthony Walker was with the team this past season as one of the linebackers that had more of a veteran presence, and he was only 26 years old.
He’s a free agent and could be on his way out of town. The elder in the group and former Super Bowl MVP was Malcolm Smith at the age of 32 but he too is a free agent and could be looking for a bigger paycheck.
The free agency market this offseason is pretty deep and there are many less expensive options for the Browns to consider. With Owusu-Koramoah and Phillips and possibly Fields the only locks on staying with the team going into next season, the possibilities and picking up at least two or three linebackers through free agency or drafting a linebacker again this spring are all very real.
Takitaki has been with the Browns for three seasons. He’s had a nice career so far. He recorded 44 tackles this past year which was down from the 67 tackles he had in 2020. He doesn’t become a free agent until 2023, but if the team were to release or trade him before June 1st the team would save $1 million in cap space.
The same situation could involve Wilson as well. If Cleveland were to release him, they’d also save $965,000. After his rookie year in 2019 when Wilson had 82 tackles, one forced fumble, and an interception, he hasn’t produced like that since.
With that as some context to the linebacker story for the Browns let’s take a look at some players that the team might target at the linebacker position when the NFL free agency period opens in mid-March.