Browns Pressed to Sign 2-Time Pro Bowler, Super Bowl Champ to Defense

Linval Joseph, Vikings

Getty Linval Joseph of the Minnesota Vikings looks on during the NFL International Series match between Minnesota Vikings and Cleveland Browns at Twickenham Stadium on October 29, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

The Cleveland Browns are betting big on a handful of relative unknowns and a career underachiever to shore up what was the biggest weakness on their defense last season.

The Browns interior defensive line was underwhelming in 2021, to say the least, and the two tackles who started there are long gone. Former first-round pick Taven Bryan is set to fill in after the Jacksonville Jaguars chose not to pick up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract. Opposite Bryan will be Jordan Elliott, who has started only four career games throughout his first two years in the NFL. Their backups will be Tommy Togiai and rookie Perrion Winfrey, which is essentially where the depth ends.

Inexperience and poor play are serious enough concerns as it is, not to mention injuries, which are common in the trenches. Cleveland is actively targeting defensive tackles in free agency, but have yet to pull the trigger now just six days shy of their season opener against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, September 11.

Five-time Pro Bowler Ndamukong Suh remains ready and willing on the free agent market, though the Browns appear to be waiting out the tackle’s $9 million annual salary demand. Former Browns lineman Sheldon Richardson is also available to join a roster.

If Cleveland’s front office can’t see its way clear to signing either of those proven entities, there is also another former Pro-Bowl player and Super Bowl champion floating in free agency who the Browns can target — defensive tackle Linval Joseph, most recently of the Los Angeles Chargers.

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Joseph Pitched as Player Browns ‘Must’ Sign as Season Approaches

Linval Joseph

GettyLinval Joseph (left), Justin Jones (center), and Eric Banks (right) of the Los Angeles Chargers watch the scoreboard from the sideline during the second half of a game at SoFi Stadium on November 14, 2021 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Jake Rill of Bleacher Report on Monday, September 5, published a list of free agents the Browns “must” consider adding as the regular season approaches. First among them was Joseph, who has the ability to flip what could be Cleveland’s biggest weakness into a bonafide strength.

Considering Cleveland has Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney on the ends, the defensive line has the potential to be one of its biggest strengths. However, that may not be the case if several of [their young] defensive tackles underperform.

Joseph is a 12-year NFL veteran and two-time Pro Bowler who would bring a veteran presence to the interior of Cleveland’s defensive line.

If the Browns hope to get back to the playoffs for the second time in three seasons, they need to make all areas of their team as strong as possible, which could include signing an older player to a short-term deal. Joseph may not have a long future ahead of him, but he would make Cleveland’s defense better in 2022.

Joseph Has Long History of NFL Success Across Multiple Stops

Stephen Weatherly

GettyLinval Joseph (left) and Stephen Weatherly (right) of the Minnesota Vikings walk out on the field for warmups prior to the NFC Championship game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on January 21, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Joseph, who will turn 34 years old in October, has been a productive player across his dozen years in the NFL, serving as a team captain several times for multiple organizations.

The New York Giants selected Joseph in the second round of the 2010 draft. He won a Super Bowl ring there as a starter the following year. Joseph earned both of his Pro Bowl selections in 2016 and 2017 as a member of the Minnesota Vikings before spending the last two campaigns with the Chargers in L.A.

Largely reliable and resistant to injury across his career, Joseph has appeared in 171 games and started 162 of those. He has amassed 644 tackles, including 56 for loss, 75 quarterback hits, 25 sacks, eight forced fumbles, six passes defensed, five fumble recoveries and one defensive touchdown, per Pro Football Reference.

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