Browns offseason priorities: 3 key players to re-sign, avoid roster holes

Discover the top three free agents the Cleveland Browns need to prioritize this offseason.

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1. Maurice Hurst, DT

When Joe Woods was let go as the defensive coordinator following a frustrating 2022 campaign, the Browns held several interviews. Right away, it was clear that the lead dog was Jim Schwartz and they were able to land the veteran DC who won a Super Bowl with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2017.

Schwartz has a completely different philosophy than Woods, which included getting bigger bodies in the middle of the defensive line. That led to Cleveland signing Dalvin Tomlinson, Maurice Hurst, and Shelby Harris in free agency. All three were excellent additions and not only helped the Browns improve against the run, but they occupied blockers which allowed Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Grant Delpit to attack the ball carrier freely.

While all three defensive tackles played well, Hurst earned the highest grade from PFF — coming in 15th overall at the position. He finished the year with 22 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and one of the most impressive interceptions of the season. Still, those numbers don't portray just how good No. 90 was for Cleveland.

Hurst was able to create penetration consistently and proved to be an excellent attacking 3-tech. Sadly, his season ended after 13 games due to a pectoral injury. Throughout his career, this has been the case for Hurst who missed five games in 2020, 15 in 2021, and all of 2022. Again, he played in 13 games this past season which is promising, but also could play in the Browns favor.

As good as the former Michigan Wolverine is, the injuries kept teams from knocking down his door in 2023. It could be the same in 2024, making him a more realistic option than Shelby Harris — who can command more. With Cleveland needing to be smart with cap space, bringing Hurst back on a one-year deal should be a priority.

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