Cleveland Browns defensive line will look different in 2024

Andrew Berry has rebuilt the Browns defensive line every offseason for the last three years and 2024 will be no different.

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Unfortunately, with aging and the salary cap, there are substantial changes to every NFL team year after year. The core group may stay the same for some years, but the fill-in pieces that can often be the most important are always turning. One of the biggest “fill-in” spots this year for the Cleveland Browns was along the defensive line. While Myles Garrett is certainly a core piece, the rest is still to be determined. 

Dalvin Tomlinson and Ogbo Okoronkwo appear to be longer-term solutions for GM Andrew Berry, but it’s worth noting that Tomlinson is likely in the back half of his prime as he turns 30 in the next two months. We’ve certainly seen flashes of good from Alex Wright who is a young defensive end prospect, but the snap count and performance of Siaki Ika who will be needed for production in 2024 was less than stellar in 2023.  

The big pieces that won’t be around (as of now) in 2024 are Za’Darius Smith, Maurice Hurst, Shelby Harris, and Jordan Elliot who ended up having a really strong year on the interior defensive line. 

One thing is for certain, Garrett can’t do it all himself, and we saw what happened to the pass rush once he was neutralized towards the end of the season with a shoulder injury. The combination of the injury and Laremy Tunsil being an elite NFL tackle kept the Browns from getting any pressure in the playoff game and allowed CJ Stroud to pick apart the secondary. 

I wouldn't be upset to see Smith return in 2024, but the price must be right. I’m not against drafting another pass rusher just to see what you can get, but without a first-round pick, defensive end is a position that must be addressed in free agency for this defense to continue to have their edge next season.

Harris, Hurst, and Elliott all played well alongside Tomlinson at defensive tackle this season and may have pushed their value over what Berry will be willing to spend on the position in 2024. Hurst who has struggled with injuries his entire career did make it through a majority of the season but is still a risk in my opinion moving forward. 

It’s easy to say you drafted Ika in the third round last year for him to be able to fill this massive void, but after what I’ve seen in 2023, it’s hard for me to think that he will be ready to play. At his weight, he can’t be on the field in passing situations, and he has shown no ability to balance himself in the NFL as he spent more time on the ground than his feet in his limited snaps. 

After seeing the improvement in this group in 2023, I think Berry finally sees the value in having two top-tier defensive tackles. The Browns run defense was very good for most of the season, and the gap soundness allowed linebackers to roam free.  Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah made the most of this and had a stellar season.

I’m not hitting the panic button at defense tackle by any means, but certainly worth noting the group will likely look very different in 2024.


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