The Cleveland Browns are bringing back starting linebacker Sione Takitaki.
The sides have agreed to a one-year deal, which will give Takitaki a chance to compete for the starting role. The value is expected to be around $2.5 million, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com.
He previously expressed an interest in returning to the Browns, who drafted him in the third round of the 2019 draft.
“I’ve already voiced my opinion,” Takitaki said in December. “I love Cleveland. I told them I want to be back, so we’ll see what the future holds.”
Takitaki had a breakout season with the Browns, starting eight games and notching a career-high 71 tackles. Cleveland was ravaged by injury at the linebacker position, which led to some extra work for Takitaki. However, he suffered his own season-ending injury in December, going down with a torn ACL.
“It’s obviously very disappointing,” head coach Kevin Stefanski said at the time. “(He was) playing at a really, really high level for us and playing a lot for us, so disappointing for the young man.”
Takitaki is expected to play most of next season despite the injury. But it did hurt his value in free agency, which he acknowledged last season.
“I feel like I have enough tape to end up landing on my feet eventually, so I’m not really worried,” Takitaki said. “Obviously it sucks, you know what I mean? Could have definitely got hooked up in the next contract, but I’m excited. I still got a lot of tape and I bring a lot to the table and I’m just excited.”
Browns Also Planning to Re-Sign Anthony Walker
The Browns are also planning to retain veteran middle linebacker Anthony Walker, who went down with a scary torn quad last season against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Walker inked a one-year deal with the Browns last offseason to stay in Cleveland. He was off to a strong start to the year before going down with the injury. His timeline for a return is uncertain but the Browns would like to bring him back when the time is right, per Cabot.
There’s a mutual interest, with Walker expressing last season after the injury that he’d like to stay put.
“I would definitely love to finish my career here, if it works out that way,” Walker said in November. “But at the end of the day, I would love to just play football again at this point, just to be out there running around with my teammates and playing a game that I love.”
Browns Implementing New Defense Under Jim Schwartz
The Browns defense will look different next year, with the team parting ways with Joe Woods and hiring veteran coordinator Jim Schwartz.
While much has been said about Schwartz’s scheme and how he plans to build an attacking defense, leadership and accountability are things he will stress.
“The secret sauce is getting guys playing together and that accountability that goes into it,” Schwartz said during his introductory press conference. “I would say this, if I’m doing a good job, we’ll hold our best players the most accountable. And if you start from that position, then everything else is gravy.”