The Cleveland Browns have evaluated their defensive line depth this offseason and have found it wanting, apparently, particularly at defensive tackle. While they have let Jadeveon Clowney go on the edge, that move was inevitable. But they did allow their top defensive tackle from last season, Taven Bryan, to walk, finding more desirable options on the open market.
That started with Dalvin Tomlinson, whom they signed to a robust four-year contract averaging nearly $15 million per season. Yesterday they also announced the further addition of Maurice Hurst, a talented player whose draft stock tumbled due to health concerns and who has not been healthy lately.
While details of the contract have not yet been divulged, it is reported to be a one-year deal. He is coming off of a frustrating two-year tenure with the San Francisco 49ers that saw him spent nearly all of that time on the Reserve/Injured List.
Once regarded as a potential first-round draft pick, he slid all the way to the fifth after medical checks at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine revealed a heart condition. That scared teams off of him, but the Las Vegas Raiders finally pulled the trigger in the fifth round. He had a reasonably successful three-year stint there, but had begun to fall out of favor by 2020.
Since coming into the league in 2018, Hurst has only played in 42 of a potential 82 games, missing 32 games alone over the past two seasons. As a rookie, he played in 13 games, starting 10, and registering four sacks along with 31 tackles, three tackles for loss, a forced fumble, and three batted passes. He had largely similar numbers a year later, including an interception.
In addition to Tomlinson and Hurst, the Browns did also sign end Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, who has spent most of his four-year career with the Los Angeles Rams but who was in Houston last season. He very nearly doubled his playing time there from the previous three seasons, registering five sacks, 44 tackles, and a forced fumble in eight starts over 17 games.
The Browns had among the worst run defenses in the league last season, allowing 2295 rushing yards on 488 attempts with 22 touchdowns. Opposing offenses averaged 4.7 yards per rushing attempt against them, so it’s not wonder they are turning the room over.
Still, with Hurst’s health in recent years, the Browns surely recognize the risk they are taking if they mean to count on him. The upside with him is high, but that’s only if he is able to stay on the field, which has been very difficult lately.