Having bounced around the league in recent years, Malcolm Smith nevertheless generated some attention on the market after a notable showing in Cleveland last season. But he will stay in northeast Ohio.
The Browns are expected to re-sign the veteran linebacker, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets. The Panthers also expressed interest in Smith, but he will return to the Browns.
Cleveland acquired the former Super Bowl MVP just before last season. He played 52% of the Browns’ defensive snaps — his highest usage rate since his 2016 season with the Raiders — and made 72 tackles. The 31-year-old defender will now have a full offseason to work in Joe Woods’ scheme. Pro Football Focus graded Smith as the Browns’ best linebacker in 2020, slotting he and Sione Takitaki 15th and 16th among qualified off-ball ‘backers, respectively.
Since his four-year Seahawks run ended after the 2014 season, Smith has played for the Raiders, 49ers, Cowboys, Jaguars and Browns. The Dallas and Jacksonville stays did not last long, but Smith signed lucrative deals with both Bay Area teams. He used the Cleveland stay to revive his value to some degree, and the Browns will keep the veteran in place among a young group of linebackers.
Lavonte David hovered on Cleveland’s radar, but the standout talent opted to stay in Tampa. The Browns moved on, and Smith appears to have represented a proven fallback option. The Panthers have since agreed to terms with ex-Charger Denzel Perryman.
The Browns’ uphill battle in their first playoff game in 18 years became steeper Saturday. The team announced it will be without top cornerback Denzel Ward in Pittsburgh.
Ward will remain on the Browns’ reserve/COVID-19 list. So will fellow starting cornerback Kevin Johnson, who also tested positive last week. Both missing last week limited a Browns secondary in a game when Mason Rudolph threw for 315 yards and two touchdowns.
Based on his timeline, coronavirus protocols would have allowed Ward to suit up against the Steelers. But this would have required Ward being asymptomatic and passing the necessary tests. The third-year corner has not hit the necessary checkpoints, which will leave the Browns shorthanded Sunday night. The NFL found some COVID-19 spread within the Browns but did not move to postpone the AFC North playoff matchup.
The returns of Harrison, Smith and Bryant leave Ward, Johnson, Joel Bitonio and KhaDarel Hodge on Cleveland’s COVID list. Several coaches, however, will miss the game. Kevin Stefanski, offensive line coach Bill Callahan, assistant O-line coach Scott Peters, tight ends coach Drew Petzing and DBs coach Jeff Howard are out Sunday night. After coaching the Browns’ wide receivers last week, first-year Cleveland assistant Callie Brownson will coach tight ends this week, Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com tweets.
December 31st, 2020 at 3:15pm CST by Zachary Links
The Browns’ COVID-19 situation will keep at least four players out of their crucial Week 17 game. Linebacker Malcolm Smith and tight end Harrison Bryant are the players who tested positive for the coronavirus, sources tell NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (on Twitter). They’ll be held out of Sunday’s tilt against the Steelers, along with linebacker B.J. Goodson and safety Andrew Sendejo.
Although the team reopened its facility after a contact tracing effort Wednesday, the Browns closed it again Thursday. They will, however, have their top four receivers back this week. Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones and KhaDarel Hodge are off the team’s reserve/COVID-19 list. So is linebacker Jacob Phillips. The Steelers-Browns rematch remains on schedule for 1pm ET Sunday.
Denzel Ward, however, is the latest Browns player to run into COVID trouble. The Browns’ No. 1 cornerback tested positive for the coronavirus and is out Sunday, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reports (on Twitter). He is out for Sunday’s game and would be a long shot to play in the Browns’ playoff opener, should they qualify.
The Browns are playing to snap the NFL’s longest active playoff drought. If they win, they’re in. If they lose, they’ll need the Colts to do the same, but that would hinge on a quality performance from the lowly Jaguars. If the Browns lose and the Colts win, they’ll need a Titans loss, plus wins from the Ravens and Dolphins to sneak into the postseason.
Smith has 104 career games to his credit with several teams, though his most memorable moments came with the Seahawks. The Super Bowl XLVIII MVP moved on to the Raiders in 2015 and served as a two-year starter, but he didn’t necessarily impress. Later, he hooked on with the 49ers, but he was plagued by injuries over the course of the two-year deal. Last year, Smith spent time with the Jaguars and Cowboys, suiting up for four games in total.
In Cleveland, he’ll help fill-in for Mack Wilson, who suffered a severe knee injury last week. To make room for Smith, the Browns have dropped center Casey Dunn with an injury designation (foot). They’re at an even 80 players on the roster, enabling them to have the entire team practice at a single site between now and the start of the season.
With Mack Wilson uncertain to be available this season, the Browns are looking to free agency to help fill the void. Malcolm Smith was in Cleveland on Thursday for a workout, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets.
The former Super Bowl MVP played in just four games last season but has 52 games’ worth of starting experience in a nine-year career. The Browns have gone from housing an experienced linebacking corps to one of the league’s youngest groups.
Cleveland went from carrying two high-end linebacker contracts — for Jamie Collins and Christian Kirksey — to having no notable money devoted to this position entering this season. The Browns also let top tackler Joe Schobert walk in free agency. This leaves a host of young players, along with free agent addition B.J. Goodson, vying for roles. Wilson started 14 games last season and was expected to be a starter. While his season is not yet deemed over, Wilson will at least be out for a lengthy period after hyperexpending his knee.
Smith was a part-time player for the 49ers in 2018, starting five games and playing 31% of San Francisco’s defensive snaps. The 49ers cut Smith last year, and he ended up playing short-term roles with the Jaguars and Cowboys. Prior to an injury nullifying his 2017 season, he signed a lucrative deal with the 49ers. Smith was a full-time player with the Raiders from 2015-16, though he is still best known for his work in Super Bowl XLVIII and that year’s NFC championship game.
December 17th, 2019 at 3:31pm CST by Zachary Links
The Cowboys have signed Super Bowl XLVIII MVP Malcolm Smith, according to ESPN.com’s Todd Archer (Twitter link). Smith will give the Cowboys some much needed reinforcement at linebacker as they make their playoff push in the final two games of the season.
Smith, who has ties to passing game coordinator Kris Richard, figures to see reps as Joe Thomas (knee), Sean Lee (pec, thigh) and Leighton Vander Esch (neck) work through injuries. He no longer profiles as an elite defender, but he offers experience and familiarity with Richard’s schemes.
Smith has not played since Week 9, when he was dropped by the Jaguars after a two-game stint. Over the years, he’s appeared in 102 games with 51 starts with totals of 393 tackles, six sacks, four interceptions, and nine forced fumbles.
If the Cowboys beat the Eagles on Sunday, they’ll clinch the NFC East and punch their ticket to the playoffs. If they lose, they’ll need a win over the Redskins and a Giants victory over the Eagles in Week 17 to reach the postseason.
The last couple of years have been rough for Smith, who memorably took home the Super Bowl XLVIII MVP award as a member of the Seahawks. He signed a two-year, $7.5MM pact with the Raiders in March 2015, and though he was a full-time starter for the Silver-and-Black and compiled over 100 tackles in both of his seasons in Oakland, advanced metrics were not terribly fond of his play.
Nevertheless, he was able to parlay his strong raw statistics with the Raiders into a five-year, $26.5MM deal with the 49ers in March 2017. But he missed the entire 2017 campaign due to a torn pectoral muscle, and he was cut by the 49ers before the start of the 2019 campaign. The 30-year-old went on to have a cup of coffee with the Jaguars in 2019, but he was dropped after just two games.
Smith’s familiarity with Cowboys defensive coordinator Kris Richard could help him catch on quickly. If he’s signed, Smith could help the Cowboys in their pivotal Week 16 matchup against the Eagles.