This is without a doubt the most popular topic amongst Browns fans and even some media members right now. To the naked eye, it’s easy to consider this a “need” based on how the interior defensive line performed in 2021, as well as looking at the current roster construction itself. We’re going to talk about a few reasons why Cleveland hasn’t added any other interior defensive lineman to the team as of right now.
The Cleveland Browns don’t value the defensive tackle position in regards to stopping the run.
Looking at the current Cleveland Browns defensive tackle situation from the outside-in, it seems as though there’s a legitimate cause for concern. Andrew Berry, Joe Woods, and the rest of the Browns’ defensive staff have shown that they don’t value the defensive tackle position when it comes to run defense. They would rather do everything that they possibly can, as well as expel most of their resources to rush the passer and rely on the linebacking core to stop explosive run plays.
It’s not necessarily that Cleveland doesn’t believe that stopping the run is important, it’s just that they’d prefer to go about doing it another way. They want to beat offenses with speed, quickness, and athleticism rather than using bigger interior players to clog gaps and run lanes. For example, they value using players like Taven Bryan, Perrion Winfrey, and Sheldon Day to shoot and squeeze gaps rather than anchoring and clogging them.
This is more of a numbers or analytical approach to defending the run game. By having superior athletes on the field at all times, you increase the overall ability to stop the offense as a whole. Cleveland wants to be a “bend but don’t break” defense against the run, and a dominant, suffocating type of defense against the pass.
The Cleveland Browns believe in developing the guys that they already have.
This Cleveland Browns regime also highly believes in the process of developing their own talent across the board, and defensive tackle is no different. As it stands, they are going to rely heavily on the players that they already have in-house to improve.
Jordan Elliott is somebody that Cleveland has pegged early on in the process to be a force on the interior defensive line this season. It appears that he is switching to the “1-Technique” defensive tackle this summer. He has put on some nice weight and strength throughout the offseason, and you can tell that it’s given him some much-needed confidence. He’s the type of player that the Browns could use in short-yardage and goal-line situations because he’s more of the thick, “run-stopper” type in comparison to the rest of the players that Cleveland has at the position.
The Browns are also expecting big things from former first-round pick Taven Bryan in 2022. He fell out of favor in Jacksonville due to his inconsistency but when he’s “hot”, he’s extremely tough to block.
Andrew Berry has a history of retaining the players that he’s responsible for or has a “hand” in drafting. He firmly believes that his staff puts in an immense amount of work to scout, project, and develop the players that they ultimately decide to add. This simple fact is the main reason why he rarely releases a player that he’s drafted within the first two to three years of their contracts.
Rookies Alex Wright and Isaiah Thomas also have the versatility to play anywhere along the defensive line in Joe Woods’ defense, so that also plays a factor in their current defensive tackle valuation for the upcoming season.
The financial side.
This is something that Cleveland has never really had to worry about. Now that Deshaun Watson is a Brown, everything has changed going forward in terms of financial importance. He is now the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL in terms of guaranteed money. Cleveland also has an immense amount of money tied up in the new contract extensions of Myles Garrett, Denzel Ward, and Nick Chubb. Baker Mayfield’s contract being still on the books adds another monetary element as well. All of these factors make it hard for them to go out and sign a stalwart defensive tackle, especially since they believe that it’s an overrated position anyways.
Taven Bryan is a perfect example of the types of players that you will see the Browns add. A former highly ranked player who has underwhelmed in recent years, so they can sign them to one-year “prove-it” deals. They are trying to get the best “bang for your buck” type of players there.
Yes, it’s possible that we see them add another cheap, veteran free agent to the mix such as Ndamukong Suh or Linval Joseph but I wouldn’t count on it. It shouldn’t surprise anyone to see Cleveland head into the 2022 season with their current defensive tackle group.