During the first five hours of the 2013 NFL free agency period, the Cleveland Browns gave new defensive coordinator Ray Horton a few tools to work with.
Outside linebacker Paul Kruger and defensive tackle Desmond Bryant signed to play in Cleveland. For a team that will be using a “multi-front 3-4” scheme, the new players were a welcomed addition.
So, what does this mean for the Browns’ defense in 2013?
Let’s start up front. Defensive line? Most identified CB, OLB, TE, and OG as the Browns’ top targets in free agency. No one expected the Browns to sign a defensive tackle.
What did they like about Bryant? Certainly it wasn’t the infamous mug shot that went viral last month.
Woah, he has a mug shot? He was arrested Feb. 24 for “criminal mischief.” According to police in Miami, Fla., the 6-foot-6, 311-pound, 27-year-old was drunk at a house causing a ruckus. Clearly the charges are not too serious considering the Browns committed five years and $34 million dollars.
Bryant was one of the more talented defensive linemen available via free agency.
Last season, he showed his ability to get to the quarterback. The Harvard grad, who went undrafted, led the Oakland Raiders in sacks (4.0) last season, but also had 11 quarterback hits and 20 hurries. In four years with the silver and black, Bryant has played in 62 of a possible 64 games.
He is the latest piece to an already growing and impressive roster at defensive line.
You have the…
… first-year surprises in John Hughes, Ishmaa’ily Kitchen and Billy Winn
… the quarterback seekers in Jabaal Sheard and Juqua Parker
… the solid pros in Ahtyba Rubin and Phil Taylor.
A team’s linebackers are only as good as the defensive line. The more blocking the players up front require, the more freedom it gives the linebackers. Horton now has some freedom to move around those defensive linemen to create mismatches and allow the linebackers room to roam.
That brings us to Paul Kruger.
Like Bryant, Kruger is 27. See a theme? The Browns didn’t target older free agents, but players smack dab in the middle of their prime.
Kruger, who played opposite Terrell Suggs in the Baltimore Ravens’ 3-4 scheme, finished with nine sacks last regular season and 4.5 in playoffs including two in the Super Bowl. It earned him a five-year, $40 million contract with the Browns.
Kruger’s job in Cleveland will be to get to the quarterback. Kruger isn’t great against the run, but the Browns want to put pressure on the other team’s quarterback.
In 2012, the Browns tied with Arizona, San Diego and San Francisco for 11th in the league with 38 sacks. Six teams finished for the top five - Denver, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Green Bay, Houston and Minnesota. Only St. Louis didn’t make the playoffs.
Attack. Get to the quarterback. New Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski wants an attacking defense and his defensive coordinator feels the exact same way.
See another theme developing?
It was the first day of a long offseason, but within the first five hours the Browns targeted two key defensive players, signed those players and signaled to the entire NFL this is not the same-old Browns.