Browns Positioned to Reunite With Former 2nd-Rounder to Replace Za’Darius Smith

Emmanuel Ogbah, Dolphins

Getty Edge defender Emmanuel Ogbah, formerly of the Miami Dolphins.

The Cleveland Browns are in need of another edge defender and one of the team’s former draft picks has come available ahead of free agency next month.

The Miami Dolphins released defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah on Friday, February 23, followed by cornerback Xavien Howard. Ogbah played the last four seasons in Miami, including the most recent two campaigns on a four-year contract worth $65.4 million total.

Teams can officially sign Ogbah as early as March 13 and a reunion with the Browns — who selected the pass-rusher with the No. 32 overall pick in the second round of the 2016 NFL draft — makes a reasonable amount of sense considering Cleveland’s projected needs.

Defensive end Za’Darius Smith is also headed to free agency and will turn 32 years old ahead of next season. Smith remains formidable, putting up 6 sacks and 60 total pressures in 2023, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF). However, Spotrac lists his projected market value as $12.5 million annually over a new two-year deal, which may well exceed the Browns’ internal assessment of his value as he rounds the corner into his mid-30s.

Ogbah also produced 6 sacks across 15 games played in 2023 and did so in a rotational role, starting just one game, while Smith started all 16 regular-season contests in which he participated. Ogbah rated out well below Smith in PFF’s analytics-based rating system, as he produced less than one-third of the pressures (19 total).

That said, Ogbah saw just 144 pass-rushing snaps, while Smith played 387 such snaps. Beyond that, Ogbah will command a considerably lower salary than Smith and could team up with Ogbo Okoronkwo to fill in the gaps of the Browns’ second defensive end position alongside the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in Myles Garrett.

Emmanuel Ogbah Underperformed as Starter in First Stint With Browns

Emmanuel Ogbah

GettyDefensive end Emmanuel Ogbah, formerly of the Miami Dolphins.

Ogbah’s return to Cleveland wouldn’t be that of a conquering hero coming back to an adoring nation, but it would suffice as a second chance under more reasonable circumstances and expectations.

The DE/OLB played in and started 40 games for the Browns over a three-year stretch after the team drafted him with the first pick of the second round. He tallied 29 QB hits, 17 pass breakups, 16 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks over that span, per Pro Football Reference.

Still, Ogbah failed to live up to his near first-round draft position and the Browns ultimately traded him to the Kansas City Chiefs for defensive back Eric Murray straight up in April 2019.

Ogbah’s dismissal from the Dolphins doesn’t speak particularly well of his future prospects, but Miami cut him loose for the $13.7 million in salary cap savings. For context, Cleveland will at least consider cutting four-time Pro Bowl running back Nick Chubb for the chance to save $11.8 million if the two sides can’t agree to an extension or a restructure to lower his 2024 cap hit.

Browns May Opt for More Complete Defender to Pair Alongside Myles Garrett

Cleveland Browns star Myles Garrett took a playful swipe at his quarterback Joe Flacco.

GettyCleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett.

The biggest concern the Browns should have about Ogbah is that he is more of a pass-rush specialist than he is a three-down defender capable of playing a starting role.

Ogbah played just 98 snaps against the run in 2023 and graded out abysmally, pulling a 39.7 run defense grade, per PFF. Okoronkwo is also more of a pass-rush rotational player, which could lead Cleveland to a player more capable against the run to fill the starting role Smith is likely to vacate.

There are a handful of options who should become available in March, including Chase Young of the San Francisco 49ers and Jonathan Greenard of the Houston Texans. Those types of players will be more expensive, however, so a give-and-take will exist regardless of which path the Browns choose to tread.

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