The Cleveland Browns were busy this offseason making upgrades to the weak spots on their roster. Both sides of the ball will feature new faces in prominent roles, but it is the defense the team needs to see the most improvement.
The Browns knew last season would be rocky offensively, starting Jacoby Brissett for the first 11 games of the season as Deshaun Watson served his suspension. The defense was unable to pick up the slack, ranking 20th in points allowed and 14th in yardage. The Browns were especially poor against the pass, ranking 25th in yardage and 29th in touchdowns allowed.
A big reason for their struggles was an underwhelming pass rush around Myles Garrett. Garrett is one of the best in the business, but no one stepped up around him in 2022. Looking to change that, the Browns made some additions.
The biggest was acquiring Za’Darius Smith from the Minnesota Vikings, along with a sixth and seventh-round pick, in exchange for two fifth-round picks. Smith is coming off of his third Pro Bowl campaign, totaling 10 sacks last season; it was the third time in four seasons he reached double-digits.
Smith isn’t the only Viking to join the Browns this offseason as defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson also headed to Cleveland as a free agent. Could they be joined by another former teammate?
Over at Bleacher Report, Kristopher Knox put together his trade block big board entering Week 1. Vikings edge rusher Danielle Hunter made the list and the Browns were mentioned as a possible landing spot.
Knox notes that if the Browns are going to make a deep playoff run, adding another edge rusher wouldn’t be the worst plan. Hunter had 10.5 sacks last season and would make a dominant trio along with Smith and Garrett.
He also requested a trade from the Vikings earlier this season, but no deal was made. Instead, Minnesota gave him a raise to $17 million this season with a chance to earn $20 million. Alas, no extension was added, which means he will hit the open market in 2024.
Seeing him leave without receiving any assets in return is a worst-case scenario for the Vikings. They should be able to get a Day 2 pick at the least in exchange for him, something the Browns should be willing to pay to continue revamping their defense. Immediate cap savings would also come as a result of Hunter being traded.