Browns Trade Proposal Brings Former All-Pro Linebacker to Cleveland

Eric Kendricks, Minnesota Vikings

Getty Middle linebacker Eric Kendricks #54 and teammate outside linebacker Anthony Barr #55 of the Minnesota Vikings react against the Atlanta Falcons in the game at U.S. Bank Stadium on September 08, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

The Cleveland Browns have serious questions at quarterback and badly need to find a No. 1 wide receiver this offseason, but opportunities to improve the defensive side of the ball are out there as well.

One area Browns general manager Andrew Berry may look to shore up is Cleveland’s young linebacking corps. Starting middle linebacker Anthony Walker hits unrestricted free agency on Wednesday, March 16 and will be looking for a multiyear contract after playing on a one-year deal in 2021. Malcolm Smith is also a free agent this offseason, while Sione Takitaki, who started eight games for the Browns, is entering the final year of his rookie contract. The Browns appear in need of locking down an established entity at the position to pair alongside rookie sensation Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, and their answer may currently reside on the Minnesota Vikings‘ roster.

Ian Wharton of Bleacher Report on Tuesday, March dove into the nine NFL players most likely to be traded this offseason. Coming in at No. 8 on that list was Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks. Minnesota must clear $15 million in salary cap space over the coming months, which potentially puts Kendricks and his $13.5 million cap hit on the trading block playing one of the best seasons of his seven-year NFL career in 2021. The Browns’ relatively strong cap situation and its need at the position combine to make Cleveland a sensible destination for Kendricks if he ends up on the move.

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Analyst Links Vikings LB Kendricks to Browns in Potential Trade Deal

Eric Kendricks

GettyLinebacker Eric Kendricks of the Minnesota Vikings has two years remaining on his current contract but could be traded this offseason.

Wharton laid out several reasons Kendricks would make sense in Cleveland, not the least of which is that he remains under contract for the next two seasons.

Kendricks is especially interesting for linebacker-needy teams. The 30-year-old has been as productive as any of his peers, and he is coming off maybe his best all-around season yet. He accumulated 143 tackles, two interceptions, four pass deflections, and five sacks in 2022.

A contending team would happily pay Kendricks his $9.15 million base salary in 2022 and 2023. The limited financial obligation to Kendricks beyond his prime is a positive selling point. Plus, the list of inside linebackers available in free agency isn’t especially strong.

Wharton named the Browns first among teams that would be most interested in Kendricks’ services should the Vikings decide to shop him. Also included on that list were the Washington Commanders and the Philadelphia Eagles.

Kendricks Would Team Up With Owusu-Koramoah in Cleveland

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Cleveland Browns

GettyMyles Garrett (left) and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (right) of the Cleveland Browns celebrate after a play during the first half of a game at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 26, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)

If signed, Kendricks would become a crucial part of the Browns short-term plans on defense. The player he would be teaming up with in Owusu-Koramoah is the face of Cleveland’s long-term vision for the position group.

Pro Football Focus (PFF) ranked Owusu-Koramoah ninth out of 87 qualifying players at the position during his rookie campaign with an overall grade of 76.0. The young linebacker showed the entire range of skills of necessary skills, though he was strongest against the run with a grade of 77.8. He also earned a pass rush rating of 70.3 and a coverage rating of 67.4.

Kendricks was a better pass defender than Owusu-Koramoah with a grade of 73.8, but trailed the rookie in all other categories. Still, their skill sets, relative timelines and contract figures are compatible over at least the next two years, meaning the pairing would make sense for a Browns team looking to return to playoffs after missing out on the postseason in 2021.

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Harry K
Harry K
8 months ago

Sounds like a good plan. That being said I still think the Browns should draft a quarterback in the later rounds to groom as a possible fill in if Baker gets hurt or future replacement.
Carson Strong Nevada comes to mind as he’s listed as the coming out this year.
Check out his size and stats. Draft profiles.

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