Cleveland Browns: 10 free agents Browns should target in 2019

Cleveland Browns Za'Darius Smith (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Cleveland Browns Za'Darius Smith (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /
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Cleveland Browns
Cleveland Browns Za’Darius Smith (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

1. Za’Darius Smith, LB

What would be better than stealing Za’Darius Smith from the Baltimore Ravens?

The Browns need to seriously think about making the former fourth-round pick and offer he can’t refuse.

Too often, NFL free agency is full of players who’ve already peaked. That doesn’t seem to be the case with Smith, who is just 26 years old and coming off a season in which he started a career high eight games while notching 8.5 sacks.

Emmanuel Ogbah has been disappointing to this point, which is why the Browns need to look for another edge rusher to complement  Myles Garrett on the other side.

Ogbah had 4.5 sacks last season. He’s been OK. But when you’re drafted 32nd overall, you need to make more an impact and that just hasn’t been the case with the soon-to-be third-year veteran.

Pro Football Focus awarded Smith a grade of 71.7 for the 2018 season, which is considered above average. In rushing the passer, he was given a grade of 78.7, which was the 15th highest mark among EDGE rushers.

If he signed with Cleveland, Smith would switch from an outside linebacker in Baltimore’s 3-4 base defense to a defensive end in the Browns’ 4-3 scheme.

The NFL playoffs have reminded everyone as to what can work when it comes to building a good defense. Quarterbacks who advance this far are too good. Bernie Kosar is on the record as saying he loved being blitz because it meant the defense was weakened in the secondary.

Reaching the quarterback with the front four defenders will go a long way toward the Browns’ breaking their playoff drought, which dates back to the 2002 season.

The Browns have an elite end in Garrett. Ogbah and Genard Avery would be solid players to rotate in when starters need a breather.

On the inside, Larry Ogunjobi showed a nose for getting to the quarterback. Unfortuantley, Ogunjobi couldn’t keep it up all season because of injury. However, the ability is there. We’ve all seen it.

Adding Smith would go along way to strengthining the unit and while it will cost some money, it’s not a signing that would put the Browns into financial distress.