If you've been reading much of what I've written about the Browns this offseason, you might already be getting sick of hearing about this — but upgrading the front seven on defense is what's going to completely transform this team. Letting Myles Garrett wreak havoc without constantly being double-teamed is a dynamic we've never seen, and it's one that will turn this into one of the NFL's elite units.
But as we saw last year when the idea was for Jadeveon Clowney to have that affect, you can never have too many contingency plans. And that's why the Browns can not afford to let Shelby Harris leave Cleveland without a contract after Monday's free agent meeting.
Browns Shelby Harris
Additions up front so far this offseason include Za'Darius Smith and Ogbo Okoronkwo on the edge and Dalvin Tomlinson in the middle. That does still leave us with one hole, as it would mean another season as a starter at one of the defensive tackle spots for Jordan Elliott.
Elliott started all 17 games last year, but he was arguably the worst starter on the defense. He played 703 snaps and only recorded 5 TFLs, and Pro Football Focus gave him a truly abysmal overall grade of 40.3.
Harris would be an immediate upgrade. The 31-year-old vet has recorded 5-plus TFLs in five of the last six seasons despite playing over 570 snaps only once in that stretch, and he's hit the 6.0 sack mark twice in the last four years. He's a skilled interior pass rusher, with 52 QB hits to his name, and the last time he had a season with as QB hits as Jordan Elliott's 3 last season was back in 2015, when Harris barely played in his sophomore season.
Harris would also add even more versatility to what the Browns can do up front. Jim Schwartz is an elite defensive mind, and the idea of having five players up front that he can rotate in and move around to create complex pass-rushing schemes has to make his mouth water.
The key to the Browns making a playoff push and even winning the AFC North this season is the defense, and signing Harris would finally solidify the biggest remaining weak link on the unit.
Brown is one of the best free agents still on the market, and having him this close to signing is an opportunity the Browns can't afford to miss out on.
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