The Cleveland Browns made another splash in free agency, signing former Kansas City Chiefs safety Juan Thornhill. The two-time Super Bowl champion is a perfect signing for general manager Andrew Berry and the Browns this offseason.
Yes, the team brought back their starting center, added a speedy edge rusher, and brought in a run-stuffing defensive tackle, but I truly believe that the signing of Thornhill could be the most impactful addition that the Browns make this offseason.
The need for a true free safety was glaring to me when looking at the Cleveland roster. Grant Delpit played very well in 2022, but he seemed to have found a home in the box, excelling when playing around the line of scrimmage. John Johnson III was serviceable and may have been able to fill that role if given the chance this season, but following his release, the Browns needed to add a high-level free safety. That is exactly what they did.
Thornhill was one of my favorite players in the 2019 NFL Draft, particularly at the free safety position. I wrote the following about him during the pre-draft process:
"Background at corner helps him in coverage. Great ball skills and effective with back to the ball. Good speed to keep receivers in front when in deep zone. Has athleticism to make plays in the run game but his frame isn’t optimal to play in the box. Can occasionally allow breaks in coverage as he transitions to new position. Can sometimes be overzealous pursuing the ball."
Thornhill has truly been one of the best safeties in the NFL since coming into the league in 2019.
He has a career Pro Football Focus coverage rating of 82.4, which ranks 11th of all safeties in that span. He has stayed on the field, playing at least 850 snaps in each of his first four career seasons.
The best thing for the Browns about Thornhill is that he has recently been playing the best football of his career. In 2022, he set career highs with 71 total tackles, 4 for loss, 9 pass breakups, and 3 interceptions.
Further, over his last six games of the season (Week 16 through the Super Bowl), Thornhill was graded as the best safety in the NFL with a 90.5 overall rating.
Given Thornhill's high level of play, it appears that the Browns got yet another bargain, paying just $7 million per year for their new starting safety.
The need, the player, and the price truly make Juan Thornhill the perfect signing for the Cleveland Browns this offseason.