Perfect Browns Offseason Addition Takes Major Step Toward Free Agency

If the Browns can free up some cap space this offseason, they should look to go after veteran defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins.

Houston Texans defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins (98) celebrates his touchdown off a ball fumbled
Houston Texans defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins (98) celebrates his touchdown off a ball fumbled / Denny Simmons / The Tennessean / USA

The Cleveland Browns will be looking to prioritize the defensive line this offseason after they got embarrassed by the Houston Texans in the NFL playoffs. Cleveland could not get any pressure on Texans rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud (0 sacks), which played a huge part in how that game unfolded.

The Browns are projected to be $20 million over the cap, which means they will have to make a few tough cuts and might not re-sign Za'darius Smith, Shelby Harris, Maurice Hurst, and Jordan Elliott.

Without Harris, Hurst, and Elliott at defensive tackle, the Browns are only left with veteran Dalvin Tomlinson. Cleveland will likely address the defense in the draft, but if they are looking for a free agent to sign, Sheldon Rankins should be on their list.

The 29-year-old Rankins is coming off an excellent 2023 season with the Houston Texans. The veteran defensive lineman played 55% of defensive snaps for first-year head coach DeMeco Ryans, helping the Texans become one of the better run defenses in the NFL (96.6 yards per game allowed).

Rankins produced 37 combined tackles, 10 quarterback hits, nine tackles for loss, and six sacks this season with the Texans. The last time the former first-round pick posted double-digit QB hits and more than five sacks was in 2018 with the New Orleans Saints (15 quarterback hits and eight sacks). 

Based on his production this season, the Browns must be prepared to free up some cap space to sign Rankins. Spotrac projects the veteran defensive lineman to get a three-year, $29 million deal in free agency. 

The Texans have the space to re-sign Rankins, but the team might want to go big fish hunting this offseason for other big-name free agents. Therefore, the Browns might have a chance to swoop in and inquire about his services. It’s a long shot based on the team’s current financial situation, but it’s a huge need for a defense that could lose a lot this offseason.

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