The Browns have several positions to fill on their current roster and one of the most intriguing will take place at defensive end. When examining the Browns current situation along the defensive line, it’s easy to see why the Browns took two defensive linemen in the draft. They lack depth at almost every position along the defensive line and the only proven starter is Ahtyba Rubin, who has been the anchor for their 3-4 defense for the last two seasons. But with the team switching to a 4-3 defensive front, the key will be getting consistent pass rush from their defensive ends. The team’s first two pick in the draft, Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard, both WILL start along the defensive line in their rookie seasons. That leaves another position along the line open and I’m going to discuss some of the in-house candidates and candidates via Free Agency.
Jayme Mitchell- 6’6″ 285 lbs. age: 27 current team: Cleveland Browns
This guy is a complete unknown for most Browns fans because he has never played in a game for the Browns. Tom Heckert executed a trade for this guy midseason last year from the Vikings for a late round pick and the jury is still out. Eric Mangini never gave the guy a chance and Heckert expressed frustration about Mitchell not getting any opportunities. Mitchell’s contract is currently up as well, so re-signing him will be important as soon as the lockout ends. I’ll take Heckert’s word for it that this guy has ability and can be a rotational defensive end for the team this season.
Marcus Benard- 6’2″ 256 lbs. age: 25 current team: Cleveland Browns
One of my favorite young players on the Browns, Marcus Benard has all kinds of pass rush ability. Despite only playing in 21 games so far in his career, Benard has already totaled 11.0 sacks during that span including 7.5 sacks last season. The main knock on Benard is that he isn’t big enough to be a full-time defensive end in a 4-3 scheme. I really like the ability though of the former undrafted free agent from Jackson State and I think he definitely has a role as a situational pass rusher in the Browns new scheme.
Matt Roth- 6’4″ 275 lbs. age: 28 current team: Cleveland Browns
Matt Roth instantly got the attention of Browns fans in 2009 when the Browns claimed him off waivers from the Dolphins and he racked up 4.0 sacks in only 6 games played. He’s a tough, nasty dude that gives consistent effort on a play-by-play basis. Unfortunately for him, the switch to a 4-3 defense does not suit his skill set well. His contract is up for the Browns and I see him leaving in Free Agency to sign with another team (Dallas Cowboys?).
Ray Edwards- 6’5″ 268 lbs. age: 26 current team: Minnesota Vikings
After posting two consecutive seasons of 8 or more sacks, Ray Edwards has certainly gotten my attention as a candidate in Free Agency. Now it’s not a given that he will be a free agent once a new collective bargaining agreement is reached, but if he is I would expect the Browns to pursue his services. With 29.5 sacks on his resume and still only 26 years old, I would be ecstatic to see the Browns land this guy granted they would have to offer a BIG contract to get him. The Vikings have other players to re-sign as well and may not be able to offer the same type of deal that the Browns could offer him.
Charles Johnson- 6’2″ 275 lbs. age: 24 current team: Carolina Panthers
This is another guy that the Browns should pursue if he is available in Free Agency. Coming off a season where he had 62 tackles, 11.5 sacks, and 1 forced fumble, it’s easy to see why the Browns would want this guy. How this guy is going into his 5th season and is only 24 years old is beyond me. I foresee the Panthers trying hard to retain this guy though and I wouldn’t be surprised if they re-signed him.