4. Anthony Walker, Jr., was a pro's pro.
Anthony Walker, Jr. made a lot of friends in Cleveland among his teammates, fans, and media. In addition to being a talented player with textbook tackling form, he was the team captain and defensive signal caller and was known for hard-nosed, smart play and being a great coach-on-the-field type of player. Those things don't appear in the box score but are more than mere clichés.
Unfortunately, Walker missed most of the season due to a ruptured quad tendon. There are different ways to look at this situation. One is that he was a terrific player and perhaps he represents the greatest loss among all the players going free agent in 2023. On the other hand, the Browns' front office has done a great job in finding veteran help at the linebacker position.
Moreover, the Joe Woods defense generally used only two linebackers, and the Browns had plenty of linebackers who could play. Sione Takitaki (also a UFA this off-season), Jordan Kunaszyk (ditto), Tony Fields, and Jacob Phillips were among the options that they had available. Fields and Phillips are still available and are viable players if not quite at his level. Fields in particular showed that he has talent but made his share of unforced errors last season. Specifically, roughing the punter versus the Bengals was a crucial play that made us miss Walker.
In his Cleveland career, Walker played in 16 games and had 126 tackles. He did all that in 820 snaps. Realizing that Browns had 1,089 defensive snaps in 2022, that is a crazy amount of productivity on a per-snap basis.
The ruptured quad tendon (the tendon that connects the top of the kneecap to the quadriceps muscle) is a tough injury. According to a 2013 article from the American Journal of Sports Medicine (available from the National Institute of Health website), only 50% of the NFL players who had this surgery were able to return to the playing field. That was 10 years ago and presumably, the odds are better now as surgical technology tends to get better as time goes on.
Walker will be only 28 years old this season, so it's very possible that he can be one of the players who can make it back. Thus, bringing him back is not out of the question. At the moment, however, the Browns have zero cap space pending the restructuring of a few major contracts. Being able to monitor his medical progress may give them an edge in deciding whether to gamble on that ruptured quad tendon.