First need Browns must address this offseason is the defensive line

The Cleveland Browns need to focus on their defensive line before anything else in 2024

Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns
Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns / Nick Cammett/GettyImages

In less than a month the NFL will start its new league year. At exactly 4 pm EST on March 13, teams will officially ink deals with free agents. Now while the Cleveland Browns don’t have A-list players hitting the market, one position grouping will have a glaring hole once the 13th rolls around. I'm of course talking about the defensive line

It was no secret the Browns were ravaged by injury last season, with a lot of positions experiencing massive turnover. There was one constant through this team, a stout defense. This was vastly different from the year before as that side of the ball was a liability at times.

In 2022 they blew several leads, losing to teams like the Falcons and Chargers. Of course who can forget the demoralizing loss in the home opener to the Jets, but what was holding the team back in 2022 was a strength this past year. The reason for “the upgraded defense” was because of two reasons- the hiring of defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and the other being their massive upgrades along the defensive line

The acquisitions to the defensive line paid off in 2023 as the Browns saw a ripple effect across the entire defense that made it one of the most dominant units in the history of the franchise. This season the team recorded 356 QB pressures and had a 3rd down conversion of 29.1%, no Browns team achieved either notch since they came back in 1999. The team was only six sacks short of breaking the franchise record set in 1951 (54 sacks). 

Once free agency hits next month, four of the top 11 players in sacks this past season will set to become free agents. Those players are Za’Darius Smith, Maurice Hurst, Shelby Harris, and Jordan Elliot. These four players also logged significant snap percentages. Both Harris and Elliot logged over 41% of snaps, Hurst logged over 28%, and Smith was just under 55%. This means that the players the Browns decide to add in FA or the draft will have to assume a starting role or at least contribute a significant amount of playing time. 

Looking ahead it's apparent the defensive line needs addressed and prioritized over all of the other positions. The Browns cannot afford to roll the dice with the defensive line like they did in 2022. Good News for the Browns is on the Horizon as well as Mike Florio from Pro Football Talk reported that the NFL salary cap will be raised this year to around $243 million, a near $20 million increase from last year's salary cap.

This alone would take the Browns out of the -$19 million they currently sit at per Over The Cap. This is before contract restructures and any money the team will save from cutting players. The Browns will have the capital to make a move come free agency and hopefully, some of it goes to fortifying the defensive line.

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