New Browns Signing Could Become Instant Fan Favorite

It likely won't take long for CB/ST Justin Hardee — the Browns' newest free agent signee — to become a fan favorite in Cleveland.

Justin Hardee has all the makings of a Browns fan favorite.
Justin Hardee has all the makings of a Browns fan favorite. / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Browns' busy offseason continued with another quality free-agent signing on Tuesday. NFL insider Ian Rapoport was the first to report that the Browns have signed cornerback/special teammer Justin Hardee ahead of the 2024 campaign.

Adding new names to the roster is always exciting, however, Hardee isn't just your everyday signing. The 30-year-old boasts one specific quality that'll likely make him an instant favorite among Browns fans: he has the city of Cleveland running through his veins.

Browns News: Justin Hardee Will Be a Cleveland Fan Favorite

After all, Hardee was born and raised in Cleveland. He even attended Glenville High School on the city's east side where he played safety until graduating in 2012. He then left town to spend five seasons with the Illinois Fighting Illini before joining the Houston Texans as an undrafted free agent in 2017.

Hardee's love for Cleveland also hasn't disappeared since he left to begin his college career. After the Browns beat the New York Jets in Week 17 to clinch a playoff berth, Hardee approached then-Browns quarterback Joe Flacco, telling the veteran gunslinger to "Bring my city a ‘ship.'"

Although Flacco couldn't deliver a Super Bowl to Cleveland, Hardee has a chance to do so now that he's joining his hometown team.

Hardee is someone who's expected to play a key role on the Browns' special team units going forward. The ex-Illinois defender has played over 100 games between the Jets and New Orleans Saints since 2017, racking up 59 solo tackles, two defended passes, a pair of interceptions, and one forced fumble. He also earned his first-ever Pro Bowl nod in 2022 due to his excellent special teams work with New York.

Will Hardee's addition be enough to turn Cleveland into a championship city? Time will tell. As it stands, the Browns are tied for the 15th-best Super Bowl LIX odds (+4000) on FanDuel Sportsbook.

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