According to Over The Cap, the Cleveland Browns have roughly $15 million in available cap space as mandatory minicamp gets underway for the 2023 season.
Prior to the trade for Minnesota Vikings defensive end Za'Darius Smith, GM Andrew Berry alluded to the team making more veteran additions in the near future.
Smith was yet another calculated addition to the Browns defensive line unit after the team already brought in veteran interior linemen Dalvin Tomlinson to pair with third-round rookie Siaki Ika. The Browns also added some younger veterans to the line in Maurice Hurst and Trysten Hill, two players who project to battle current Browns Jordan Elliott, Tommy Togiai and Perrion Winfrey for roster spots this summer.
While Hurst has sneaky upside to have a strong impact for Cleveland, these players undoubtedly have question marks. Hurst has an extensive injury history, Hill was unproductive for the Dallas Cowboys, Winfrey has faced recent legal trouble, and Elliott and Togiai have disappointed over multiple seasons already for the Browns.
We know the defensive line--specifically the interior--is key to what Jim Schwartz wants to do on defense. So with cap space available and the lack of proven depth in the interior of the line, here are three veteran free agents the Browns could still bring in to solidify the line (see this article for three free-agent linebackers the Browns could target).
3. Matthew Ioannidis
Former Washington Football Team and Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Matthew Ioannidis is a favorite name among Browns fans right now, and for good reason. At 6-foot-3 and 305 pounds, the 29-year-old has tallied 25.5 sacks and 212 tackles in seven seasons. Ioannidis is great at generating pressure on the quarterback, averaging 41.2 pressures whenever he plays 13 or more games in a season.
Ioannidis has remained relatively healthy for the duration of his career. The only major injury of note came in 2020 when he tore his biceps in Week 3. Ironically, that game was against the Browns. He came back from the injury in 2021 to play 16 games with 2.5 sacks and 38 tackles.
His best season was in 2019 when he compiled 8.5 sacks and 64 tackles. While Ioannidis hasn't put together a monster-type season since then, the Browns aren't looking for a monster-type player right now. What the team needs is veteran experience, leadership and proven prior production at a reasonable price--and Ioannidis fits all those criteria.
2. Michael Brockers
Touted as a phenomenal leader and mentor for young players, Michael Brockers presents a solid possible addition for the Browns. With 11 years of experience, Brockers will turn 33 years old later this season. He's posted 29 sacks and 451 tackles throughout his career with the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams and the Detroit Lions.
Until 2022, Brockers rarely missed a game; in fact, he has started in 157 of his 160 career games. In 2022 with the Lions, Brockers--despite being a team captain--was benched by head coach Dan Campbell. The team felt Brockers' production had taken a hit, but yet Brockers embraced the decision and continued to be a vocal leader for his team.
The decision to bench Brockers ultimately led to him being a cap casualty for the team heading into the 2023 season. But with his extensive history of proven production, reliability and availability, the Browns could greatly benefit from adding Brockers to the roster.
1. Shelby Harris
In eight seasons with the Oakland Raiders, Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks, Shelby Harris has accumulated 24.5 sacks and 261 tackles. While Harris is no slouch in generating pressure, he excels at stopping the run. His run defense grade per PFF is 72.0 over his career, and in 2022 Harris was graded at 76.9 in his lone season with the Seahawks. That was good for ninth overall in the NFL.
Harris, who was part of the Russell Wilson trade with Denver, became a cap casualty for the Seahawks this offseason. The team gave a massive contract to defensive lineman Dre'Mont Jones and elected to release Harris in order to free up cap space.
The Browns should strongly consider adding Harris to the defensive line. At 6-foot-3 and 300 pounds, Harris will turn 32 years old this season. But his recent production suggests he's still very much playing in the prime of his career, albeit on the back nine.
Adding a top 10 run defender on the line next to Tomlinson would give the Browns and Schwartz a dominant blend of run-stopping abilities with enough speed to rush the quarterback from the interior.