Browns Linked to Free Agent Pro Bowl Defensive Tackle

Akiem Hicks

Getty Images Free agent DT Akiem Hicks.

The Cleveland Browns need some extra beef in the middle of their defense and Akiem Hicks is being a named mentioned as an option for the AFC North squad.

Hicks is one of the top remaining free agents and could be a nice fit for the Browns, who are talented on the defensive side of the ball but need some experience at tackle.

Taven Bryan, Tommy Togiai, Jordan Elliott, Sheldon Day and rookie Perrion Winfrey currently make up the top half of the depth chart at the position. Hicks could come in and be a valuable veteran presence among that group and provide some pressure on the quarterback — his 40.5 career sacks evidence of that. Bleacher Report recently listed the Browns as a top fit for Hicks. Here’s why:

The 32-year-old can still bring it when healthy. Even while dealing with those injuries throughout the season, he had 3.5 sacks and a 9.7 percent pressure rate, according to Sports Info Solutions.

Hicks has experience playing as a five-technique as a 3-4 defensive end and has lined up everywhere else on the interior. Hicks probably shouldn’t be counted on to play a lion’s share of the snaps. His best role is as part of a defensive tackle rotation where he can stay fresh and healthy throughout the season.

Bears fans thought Hicks was ready to return to Chicago when he posted a photo on May 18 taking the head off of Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. However, he quickly deleted it.

Browns Need to Add Quality Depth to Defensive Line

The Browns have done little in free agency and the draft to address its need at defensive tackle. The team did sign Bryan — former first-round pick — but he’s far from a proven commodity in the NFL, never starting more than eight games in a season in four years with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Neither of the team’s starters from last season are projected to return to Cleveland. Veteran Malik Jackson, 32, was on a one-year deal and didn’t have an overly impressive season in 2021 and Malik McDowell, who started at the other defensive tackle spot, was arrested in January after a bizarre naked encounter with police. He’s not expected back on the Browns.

It’s unfortunate, considering McDowell was coming on as a gem of a gamble for general manager Andrew Berry. He started 14 games, notching 33 tackles and three sacks.

Browns Mentioned as Landing Spot for Ndamukong Suh

Hicks is not the only veteran defensive tackle being mentioned as an option for the Browns. Three-time All-Pro Ndamukong Suh is eyeing the Browns — along with the Raiders and Bucs — in free agency.

The former No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 draft spent the last three seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, playing an integral role on the defensive line. He started 49 contests for the Bucs over that span — not missing a game — totaling 112 tackles, 23 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks.

Another key piece the Browns are hoping to retain is Jadeveon Clowney, who is an unrestricted free agent but looks poised to return to Cleveland. The Browns have offered Clowney a two-year deal worth $24 million, per Jordan Schultz.

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