Countdown to The Draft
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By Will Burge
When a team hands a player $20 Million guaranteed like the Browns did to Paul Kruger, it normally signifies he is their prized free agent.
That might not be the case.
On Thursday the Browns introduced their newest defensive lineman Desmond Bryant. If you ask around the league, people will tell you that he and not Kruger is the team’s grand prize.
Bryant, who reportedly signed a five year, $34 Million contract with $15 Million guaranteed, was graded by many to be the best defensive lineman available in free agency.
When the Browns made a decision to hire defensive coordinator Ray Horton and switch to a base 3-4 defense, there were many questions about who would play where on the defensive line. Even though Bryant came from a 4-3 base in Oakland, he has experience as a 3-4 defensive end.
The Browns’ new head coach Rob Chudzinski said that Bryant brings the aggression and productivity they were looking for and they targeted him from the start of free agency.
The 27 year old lineman truly has been productive, racking up 10.5 sacks in the past three years. His real value, however, lies in quarterback pressures and occupying offensive lineman so guys like Kruger can get into the backfield quickly.
ProFootballFocus.com had Bryant rated as the 6th best defensive tackle in the NFL last season averaging a QB sack, hit, or hurry every 18 snaps.
There have been questions about Bryant since his arrest for criminal mischief on February 24th. Bryant, who was obviously embarrassed, brushed them off saying that it has been a trying time and that the incident was “not indicative of him” as a person. He said he doesn’t want to let it define him and doesn’t pay attention to his mug shot which has gone viral all across the internet.
Bryant, a Harvard graduate, came across very intelligent. Browns’ CEO Joe Banner said they did as much research as possible, including talking to new strength and conditioning coach Brad Roll who was with Bryant in Oakland, before signing him.
So how does the defensive line shake out now?
Bryant and Ahtyba Rubin are projected to be the starting defensive ends with Billy Winn and John Hughes as backups. Phil Taylor would most likely start at nose tackle with Ishmaa’ily Kichen as his backup. Rob Chudzinski said on Wednesday that Jabaal Sheard would stand up and play outside linebacker.
Only time will tell but Bryant could certainly end up being the cornerstone of the Browns’ defensive line for the next 3-5 years.
Joe Banner was asked at Bryant’s press conference who was representing the Browns at West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith’s pro day. He refused to answer.
This is puzzling because the pro day was on television and anyone who DVR’d it on NFL Network could probably find the Browns representatives on the field.
Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com tweeted that the Browns were one of the teams who had “high ranking” officials at Smith’s showcase.
Smith, who completed 60-64 passes with two being dropped, was not the only player at the pro day however. Tavon Austin, the 5’9” speedster wide receiver, was also there working out for teams as were many others. This makes it tough to tell who exactly they were there scouting.
The fact that Banner would not answer the question combined with Browns high ranking officials being present means they will stay entrenched in the Geno Smith rumor mill, at least for the time being.
|Will Burge covers the Browns for ESPNCleveland.com and hosts 3 Deep, Monday - Friday from 7pm-9pm.|
Follow Will on Twitter @WillBurge
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