Browns Starting Defender Expected to Walk in Free Agency

Ronnie Harrison

Getty Images Ronnie Harrison Jr. of the Cleveland Browns.

The Cleveland Browns are not expected to retain impending free agent safety Ronnie Harrison, who started 11 games for the team last season.

Harrison is expected to walk when the free agency rolls around, per Mary Kay Cabot of Harrison joined the Browns in 2020 via trade, with Cleveland sending a fifth-round pick to the Jaguars. He was able to step in and start seven games during his first season, bringing his hard-hitting ways to the Browns secondary. Harrison notched a sack, an interception returned for a touchdown and 38 tackles.

Harrison dealt with some injuries last season but still started 11 games, collecting 58 tackles, with four for a loss.

The Browns are comfortable moving on from Harrison thanks to the play of young guns Grant Delpit and MJ Stewart. Delpit was the Browns second-round pick in 2020 and is expected to be a key part of the defense going forward if he can remain healthy. Stewart will also be free agent but Cabot added that the Browns are expected to make an offer to him before he hits the open market.

Between Stewart, Delpit and free safety John Johnson III — the Browns big free agent acquisition last offseason — the Browns can feel good about the back end of their defense.

Browns Willing to Let Free Agents Test Market

Andrew Berry 2022 NFL Combine Press ConferenceExecutive Vice President, Football Operations & General Manager Andrew Berry addressed the media at the 2022 NFL Combine. Andrew discusses his evaluation of the Browns, Baker Mayfield's progress following his surgery and what to expect from this year's prospects at the combine.2022-03-01T20:14:03Z

The Browns have some other significant pieces set to hit free agency, including David Njoku and Jadeveon Clowney. While it’d be ideal to lock up players before they get the chance to talk to other teams, general manager Andrew Berry said those players have the right to see what their market value is.

“Any of our players who are no longer under contract going into the next league year, there is a little bit of uncertainty. That is just the reality of it,” Berry told reporters. “They have got to the end of their deals. They have the right to test the market, so to speak. In any given offseason, there are a number of guys where you would like to bring them all back. It does not always work out that way, but we are hopeful to assemble the best team possible in the next few weeks.”

The Browns are willing to pay double-digit millions to retain Njoku, per Cabot, and Clowney is also a player they’d like to have back as a pass-rusher partner for Myles Garrett after a bounce back year.

Malik McDowell Not Expected Back With Browns

One free agent who won’t be back with the Browns next season is defensive tackle Malik McDowell. The Browns hold the exclusive free agent rights to McDowell, but it’s unlikely he’ll be coming back next season after a bizarre naked encounter with police. Cabot confirmed what was widely assumed that the Browns will not tender McDowell.

“When he operated within the structure of the team, he flourished and had a promising season,” Cabot wrote. “Defensive coordinator Joe Woods expected him to make a big jump in 2022. But once McDowell was on his own, he got off track. In the meantime, the Browns will look for reinforcements at defensive tackle.”

The Browns are also looking to replace veteran Malik Jackson, who is 32 and an unrestricted free agent.

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