Browns Urged to Add $7 Million Linebacker, Super Bowl Champ

Getty Linebacker Damien Wilson, formerly of the Carolina Panthers.

The Cleveland Browns have remade the middle of the defense this offseason but have plenty of cap space to add one more piece.

The team lost backup linebacker Jacob Phillips for the season to a pectoral injury in August before placing LB/special teamer Jordan Kunaszyk on injured reserve (IR) with a knee issue that will cost him at least the first four weeks of the season.

Cleveland’s linebacking corps took a beating in 2022, with all three starters going down for the year at different points. Considering the injury and depth issues, as well as how painfully the Browns defense struggled to defend against the run last season, the team may consider spending some of its nearly $26.9 million in available cash to bolster the position group.

Should they do so, Alex Ballentine of Bleacher Report suggested on Saturday, September 2, that the team take a hard look at veteran Damien Wilson.

Damien Wilson Offers Browns’ Linebacker Room Size, Depth

Damien Wilson, Jaguars

GettyLinebacker Damien Wilson, formerly of the Jacksonville Jaguars, looks on before an NFL game against the Seattle Seahawks in October 2021.

Wilson remains a free agent after the Carolina Panthers released him in March to clear $3.61 million in cap space. The eight-year NFL veteran — also formerly of the Dallas Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars — signed a two-year, $6.9 million deal to join the Panthers in 2022.

Ballentine’s argument for the Browns taking a flier on Wilson is based mainly on the size and durability the 6’1″, 245-pounder can bring to the inside linebacker position.

[The Browns’] shoddy interior defensive line play last season was compounded by small linebackers. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Tony Fields II and Deion Jones all played major roles as sub-230-pound linebackers.

Sione Takitaki brings some size to the table, but they could use another big-bodied linebacker who can fill run lanes and get Owusu-Koramoah off the field in short-yardage situations. Damien Wilson fits that bill and would be a good veteran addition to round their linebacker corps.

Damien Wilson Has Proven Highly Durable Over Course of 8-Year NFL Career

Damien Wilson

GettyFormer Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Damien Wilson remains a free agent.

Wilson won a Super Bowl with the Chiefs following the 2019 season, starting all 16 games for the team that year. While he has not always been a starter over his eight NFL seasons, Wilson has proven remarkably durable — particularly considering the high-impact position he plays in the middle of the defense.

The linebacker has appeared in 127 of a possible 130 regular season games since joining the league as a fourth-round pick of the Cowboys in 2015, starting 73 of those contests. He has amassed 419 tackles, including 24 tackles for loss, 19 QB hits, nine sacks, nine pass breakups, five forced fumbles and one interception, per Pro Football Reference.

Wilson is coming off of a down season, in which Pro Football Focus (PFF) afforded him a below-average player grade of 57.1. He was, however, an above-average pass-rusher according to PFF’s analytics-based formula.

The Browns shouldn’t need a ton of sack production from its linebackers considering the presence of Myles Garrett and Za’Darius Smith on the edges of the defensive line, but Wilson’s ability in that regard would be a nice addition to his duties against the run.

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