Story of the Week: Matt Roth Edition

The OBR Forum members discuss the future of Matt Roth.

Although there isn't much that is endlessly joyous regarding a Super Bowl week that features the Steelers, you have to least admit that Media Day is always good for a laugh.  Take hundreds of national media members – many of whom have distinctly non-football backgrounds – and give them the task of painting narratives based on the most fringe of characteristics and suddenly Sunday's party talk includes the following:

Did you know that two star players have really long hair?  Or, how about that guy with the beard?  And wasn't what's his name arrested last year?

Anyway, back in the real world – specifically the OBR Forums – such talk is as irrelevant as the corporate soul that will wash over Jerry Jones' palace on Sunday.

As an example, one of more hotly debated topics of the week came from OBR Forum member tochigi.

Do We Keep Roth?

There are lots of comments on how Roth should be re-signed. He has size (275), is strong and pretty quick so should be a good DE in stopping the run and pass rushing as well.

However, he has to be re-signed. I don't understand all the legalities of trying to re-sign him, but it appears there is no "tender" issues.  So in fact, the Browns have no in built advantage in trying to retain him. This means he is a true FA and will look for the best money deal, and the best fit for him. (If I am wrong in this description of his status,then please help me out).

But, to continue, from the Browns standpoint then - since he is a true FA and only as available as say Richard Seymour, then how likely is it that we go hard after him?

I am not too sure they will spend too much to resign him, unless he gives them a "good deal".  Aren't there a lot of other FA out there that would be a better fit for the Browns?

What do you all think?

In a final nod to the Super Bowl, it will be hard to not pay attention to Pittsburgh's James Harrison and Clay Matthews of Green Bay.  In a game where the Steelers and Packers are evenly matched, a big play by one of these defensive stars could decide the outcome.  And in Cleveland – at the moment at least – Matt Roth could be considered the Browns' most dynamic front seven defender.  Of course, such comparisons are kind of lofty.

While Harrison and Matthews can literally dominate a game, Roth has proven to be a different kind of defender in Cleveland.  After bursting onto the scene late in 2009 with four sacks in six games, Roth was forced to play more of a run stopping role in 2010.  Subsequently, Roth's sack numbers dropped – which reflected the overall dip in the Browns' pass rushing totals.  Measuring Roth based on these numbers could give fans a negative view of the veteran linebacker's worth.

However, the Browns' run defense proved effective when both Roth and Scott Fujita were in the lineup.  Fujita's presence allowed Roth to take on single blockers, which boosted the run defense – at least until late October, when Fujita was lost for the season.  During the final two months of 2010, Roth was continually targeted by extra blockers and the Browns' opponents basically ran away from his side of the field.

But then again, perhaps this conversation – much like virtually every Super Bowl dispatch – could prove meaningless.  Roth is indeed an unrestricted free agent and a shift towards a 4-3 defense in Cleveland could signal the exodus of a uniquely talented defender.

After playing a full year under a restricted free agent contract, it's obvious Roth is ready to test the NFL free agent waters.  Throughout much of the season, Roth made comments suggesting this very idea.  Considering the number of teams who currently – or will soon – run a 3-4 defense, Roth should be in high demand whenever the offseason officially begins.

As for the prospects of Roth joining a new team, he could prove to be a key offseason signing for a team like the Patriots, Jets, Chargers or a similar 3-4 team who needs a boost in their run defense.  Simply put, Roth is built to play from a two-point stance.  While in an ideal world, Roth could fit his talents to Dick Jauron's new scheme, such an assumption would require both a lot of faith and a significant financial investment on the part of the Browns.

While Roth has played defensive end before in his career, it seems evident that he is a bit undersized for the position.  Roth has struggled against physical tackles during his time in Cleveland and his speed does not make him a traditional hand-to-the-ground pass rusher.  In many ways, the only reason for this current discussion is Eric Mangini's vision of Roth playing as an outside linebacker.  Before arriving in Cleveland, Roth was unremarkable as a defensive end.

Knowing this, it appears that we have seen the end of Roth in Cleveland.  Perhaps the best indication came a year ago, when the Browns did not offer Roth a contract extension.  Sensing the eventual shift away from a Mangini-style defense, locking up Roth long-term was not a smart financial decision.

Heading into the 2011 offseason, it's doubtful this thinking will change.