The Cleveland Browns are bringing back one of their own, inking free agent linebacker and former Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith to a new deal.
ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler first reported that the Browns would be re-signing Smith. The contract is for one year but the complete terms of the deal were not immediately disclosed. Smith played on a 1-year, $1.05 million deal last season.
Browns are close to re-signing ex-Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith, per source. Cleveland keeping linebacker help.
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) March 17, 2021
Smith played an important role for the Browns last season, taking part in over half of the snaps and providing a solid pass-coverage option for the Browns. He notched 72 tackles, one sack, one interception and one forced fumble last season.
Prior to his stint with the Browns, Smith made a name for himself with the Seahawks, helping the team to Super Bowl XLVIII. He recorded ten combined tackles, deflected a pass, recovered a fumble and returned an interception for a touchdown as the Seahawks throttled Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos.
Smith never made a Pro Bowl but has been a more than serviceable starter in the NFL. After leaving the Seahawks following the 2014 season, Smith spent time with the 49ers and Raiders. He started 35 games for the two teams before 2019, when he struggled to make and stay on a roster. Smith appeared in four games — two apiece with the Cowboys and Jaguars. He notched an interception and five tackles.
Browns Still in Need of Help at Linebacker
While bringing back the 31-year-old Smith is a nice move for the Browns, the team is still searching for help at linebacker. BJ Goodson, the team’s leading tackler a year ago, is a free agent as well.
Other Browns linebackers on the roster include 2019 draftees Mack Wilson and Sione Takitaki, as well as Jacob Phillips, who Cleveland selected in the third-round last year.
Tae Davis, who played mostly a special teams role but saw scatters reps at linebacker last season with the Browns, signed with the Texans on Wednesday.
— DEC Management (@davidcanter) March 17, 2021
Browns Excited About John Johnson, Takkarist McKinley
The Browns two big signings so far have come on the defensive side of the ball, adding safety John Johnson III and defensive end Takkarist McKinley. Cleveland officially announced the moves on Wednesday.
McKinley is a high-upside signing for the Browns, who brought him in on a one-year deal with a maximum value of $4 million. McKinley is a former first-round pick but is coming off a lost year marred by injury.
However, when he was with Atlanta he showed some big upside, compiling 17.5 sacks and 45 hits on the quarterback during his time with the Falcons. He posted seven in 2018, his first year as a starter.
“Takk is a skilled young player with tremendous upside,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said in a release. “We like his pass rush ability and the way he has gotten after the QB throughout his young career. Defensive line was a position that we felt we wanted to address during free agency, and we are excited to add Takk and the impactful tools he possesses to the group that will help make the plays we need along the line.”
Johnson was the first big splash for the Browns, adding him to a safety room that includes Ronnie Harrison and 2020 second-round pick Grant Delpit.
“John has a diverse skill set so we’re excited about his versatility. He can do a bunch of different things, that will allow us to expand our packages to see where he fits in,” Stefanski said. “Versatility is a big part of where we want to be.”
Johnson was the play-caller and leader for the Rams top-ranked defense. Pro Football Focus gave Johnson a grade of 85.3 for the 2020 season, putting him third in the league among safeties.