The linebacker spot was one of great flux for the Browns in 2022, after the unit was decimated by injuries throughout the campaign. Few changes to the unit have been made during the offseason, so the team’s incumbents will be counted on to remain healthy as part of a new-look front seven.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah remains at the top of the depth chart at the second level, but he was one of four linebackers who started games at some point during the season but ended the year on IR. The 2021 second-rounder will be expected to take a step forward in terms of production in Year 3, but a bolstered D-line in front of him and a healthy group of fellow starters should help in that regard.
On that note, plenty of attention will be placed on Sione Takitaki‘s rehab from a torn ACL. The setback hindered his market and yielded only a one-year Browns deal, but a return to his pre-injury form would be a welcomed development for player and team. The 28-year-old is not a lock to be healthy in time for the beginning of the season, however, per The Athletic’s Zac Jackson (subscription required).
Especially if Takitaki were to miss time in the fall, signficant playing time would be available for the likes of Anthony Walker and Jacob Phillips. The former inked a one-year pact with Cleveland for the third consecutive offseason, while the latter is entering the final year of his rookie contract. The Browns signed Matthew Adams to provide depth and special teams experience, but no rookies were added at the position during the draft.
Midseason trade acquisition Deion Jones also remains unsigned, after he and the Browns agreed to a reworked contract which removed the 2023 campaign from his deal. As Jackson notes, Cleveland’s lack of impactful moves suggests confidence in the team’s available options at the LB spot ahead of new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz‘s first year at the helm. The arrivals of Dalvin Tomlinson, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and Za’Darius Smith should improve his unit’s play at the line of scrimmage. Whether or not that helps answer the outstanding questions surrounding the linebacking corps will be worth watching as the season progresses.