Sione Takitaki

Browns To Consider Extension For LB Sione Takitaki?

Browns linebacker Sione Takitaki is entering the final year of his rookie contract, and Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com writes the Browns could consider a new deal. Takitaki’s place in Cleveland beyond 2022 is not known just yet, but the former third-round pick has been a regular on the past two Browns defenses. 

Cleveland’s most frequent alignment is a 4-2-5 look, with Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Anthony Walker entrenched as the primary linebackers in the middle of the unit. But when the team deploys a strong-side ‘backer, it calls upon Takitaki, a hard-hitting run-stopper whose 67.5 grade from Pro Football Focus in 2021 would have been a top-20 mark if he had enough snaps to qualify.

Indeed, the BYU product appeared in just 28% of the Browns’ defensive snaps least season after posting a 43% number the year before. Much of that decrease was due to the arrivals of Owusu-Koramoah and Walker, who established themselves as high-level performers and relegated Takitaki to more of a marginal role.

Still, the advanced metrics were similarly fond of Takitaki in 2020, when he posted a career-best PFF grade of 71.2. Even if he is slated for rotational duties moving forward, the 27-year-old has been productive when given the opportunity to stay on the field, and should be relatively affordable on a short- or medium-term extension.

As many have pointed out amidst Cleveland’s Deshaun Watson-induced QB uncertainty, the Browns are currently in a league of their own in terms of 2022 cap space. Much of that will likely be used to roll over into next year, which will see a substantial spike in cap figures for the likes of Watson, Myles Garrett, Amari Cooper, and Denzel Ward. An extension would therefore have to be relatively modest for Takitaki, though there is little reason to believe anything other than that would be the Browns’ goal.

As Cleveland looks to retain as many members of what it feels is a Super Bowl-caliber roster, keeping Takitaki in the fold would likely be a worthwhile investment. How aggressively they pursue an extension, however, remains to be seen. Of course, as Cabot notes, the team could simply wait to consider a new contract until next offseason.

Adam La Rose contributed to this post.

Minor NFL Transactions: 1/5/22

Here are Wednesday’s minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears 

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Green Bay Packers

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

San Francisco 49ers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

COVID-19 Latest: Ravens, Williams, Browns

Earlier Wednesday, the NFL took the Ravens-Steelers rematch off its Thanksgiving schedule. That game is now on tap for 12:15pm CT Sunday. More is emerging on why the Steelers will see another of their games delayed. The Ravens disciplined a strength and conditioning coach for “conduct surrounding the recent COVID-19 cases that have affected players and staff.” The Ravens are levying the discipline because the unnamed staffer did not report symptoms or consistently wear a mask or a contact tracing device, according to NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (on Twitter). This is believed to have contributed to the Ravens’ outbreak — one that comes nearly two months after a Titans outbreak altered the Steelers’ schedule. Seven Ravens players and at least five staffers have tested positive for COVID. This will not only weaken Baltimore against Pittsburgh but potentially deplete team’s roster for its Week 13 Thursday game against Dallas.

Several teams shuffled their rosters because of COVID on Wednesday. Here is the latest:

  • 49ers left tackle Trent Williams tested positive for COVID-19 last week, per ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano (on Twitter). A cancer survivor, Williams has not experienced issues with the virus yet, Graziano tweets. Williams, who landed on the 49ers’ COVID list earlier this month as a high-risk close contact, is on track to miss San Francisco’s Week 12 game in Los Angeles.
  • Six players remain on San Francisco’s virus list. The 49ers removed Arik Armstead and center Hroniss Grasu on Wednesday.
  • Browns linebacker Sione Takitaki tested positive Wednesday, according to Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com (on Twitter). Takitaki played against the Eagles and returned an interception for a touchdown. The Cleveland starting linebacker’s positive test follows Myles Garrett‘s. Neither they nor Denzel Ward (injury) will be available for Sunday’s game against the Jaguars. The Browns closed their facility Wednesday, but their Jags game remains on schedule.
  • The Bengals placed wide receiver Auden Tate and recently acquired offensive lineman B.J. Finney on their reserve/COVID-19 list. Cincinnati has seen staffers test positive, with D-line coach Nick Eason being the most recent. Eason was alerted of his positive test Tuesday. The Bengals now have five players on their reserve/COVID list.
  • Christian Wilkins is off the Dolphins‘ COVID list. Wilkins was not reported to have tested positive, but the second-year defensive lineman still missed two games after landing on the team’s virus list.
  • The Raiders activated Cory Littleton from their COVID list. The high-profile free agent addition has been out for two weeks due to a positive coronavirus test. Las Vegas’ defense remains shorthanded due to virus issues, with Clelin Ferrell testing positive last week and Lamarcus Joyner missing Sunday’s Chiefs game because of his status as a close contact.
  • Dante Fowler also tested positive two weeks ago and missed the Falcons‘ Week 11 game, but the big-ticket free agent addition is off the list now and on course to return to Atlanta’s lineup Sunday.
  • The Vikings and Chargers also removed players from their respective virus lists Wednesday. Minnesota activated guard Dru Samia; Los Angeles activated cornerback Brandon Facyson.

Browns Wrap Draft Class

The Browns’ draft class is in the books. On Friday, the Browns inked third-round linebacker Sione Takitaki, which means that all of the following players are officially in the fold:

Last year, Takitaki led BYU with 118 tackles, but many teams had him low on the board due to his past off-the-field troubles. Takitaki got into a dorm fight in his freshman year, allegedly stole property on campus as a sophomore, and spent time away from the program in 2016 due to academic issues.

In spite of those red flags, the Browns are excited about Takitaki’s potential.

Takitaki is a tough son of a gun,” Browns director of college scouting Steve Malin said during the draft. “I’m excited about having Takitaki because of his physical presence and what he brings to this organization. Obviously, there is a lot of exposure that all of us in the personnel department got on all these players.”