Will The Cleveland Browns’ Defensive Overhaul Make A Difference In 2023?

If it’s true that you can tell how an NFL team’s season went by the amount of activity by that team following the season, the Cleveland Browns’ 2022 season was just as bad in hindsight as it was in real time.

Consequently, the Browns have been among the busiest teams in the league since the end of their disappointing 7-10 season and last place finish in the AFC North.

Most of the changes have come on the defensive side of the ball, and with good reason. Cleveland had one of the most porous defenses in the league in 2022, leading to the dismissal of defensive coordinator Joe Woods, who was quickly replaced by Jim Schwartz.


But the changes didn’t stop there. Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer was also let go after the season. He was replaced by Bubba Ventrone, whose full title is assistant head coach, special teams coordinator.

Head coach Kevin Stefanski, who in 2023 will be entering the fourth year of his five-year contract, has added two new coaches to his staff: senior offensive assistant Bill Musgrave and safeties coach Ephraim Banda.

Six other members of Stefanski’s staff were assigned to new roles: Ben Bloom (defensive line), Callie Brownson (assistant wide receivers coach), Riley Hecklinski (coordinator, coaching logistics), Brandon Lynch (cornerbacks), and Kevin Roberts (senior assistant, special projects).


The Browns have likewise added several new players to their roster, the two biggest being much-needed additions to what was a woeful defensive line last season. On the first day of free agency the Browns signed defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson to a four-year, $57 million contract, with $27.5 of it guaranteed.

The 6-foot-3, 317-pound Tomlinson, was a second-round pick by the New York Giants out of Alabama in the 2017 draft. Tomlinson, 29, spent four years with the Giants and two with the Vikings before signing with the Browns.

Cleveland’s other major free agent addition to the defensive line is defensive end Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, who signed a three-year $19 million contract with the Browns. Okoronkwo was a sixth-round pick by the Rams in the 2018 draft. He had 4.5 sacks in three years with the Rams and five sacks with Houston last year.


The Browns need all the help they can get on the defensive line. Last season, despite the fact that Browns defensive end Myles Garrett was second in the NFL with 16 sacks, the Browns’ defense ranked a distant 27th in the league in sacks.

“Myles is a generational player. I’m excited to be able to play with him,” Tomlinson said. “We’re both going to demand a lot of attention. (Opponents) can’t double-team everyone.

One of the reasons Cleveland was forced to go the free agent route in trying to improve their defensive line is because the Browns’ first-round pick in the NFL draft belongs to the Houston Texans, as part of last year’s trade for Deshaun Watson.

Tomlinson and Okoronkwo aren’t the only players the Browns have added since the end of the season. They also signed safety Juan Thornhill to a three-year $21 million contract.

A second-round pick by Kansas City in the 2019 draft, Thornhill has eight interceptions over the last four years. That’s another category in which the Browns were deficient last season. Cleveland’s 11 interceptions ranked 21st in the NFL.


Two other defensive players added by the Browns are lineman Trysten Hill, who in his four years in the league has played for Dallas and Arizona, and cornerback and special teams candidate Mike Ford, who has played for three teams – Detroit, Denver and Atlanta – in his five years in the league.

Not all of the Browns’ roster additions have been defensive players. Tight end Jordan Akins was signed to a two-year deal, in a transaction that makes sense, given that Akins spent three years (2018-20) catching passes from Watson when both were members of the Houston Texans.

In some ways, Cleveland’s busy offseason has a sort of “round up the usual suspects” vibe to it. But there’s more to it than that. It’s arguable that no NFL team last season had a larger performance gap between its offense and its defense than the Browns. Or maybe the gap was coaching as much as it was talent.


Whatever it was, it’s clear Browns officials have barreled into the offseason with the intent of developing a defense the team’s offense, and coaching staff, can count on.

To that end, team officials may not be done yet. The loss of six draft picks – three first rounders, one third round, and two fourth round – in the trade for Watson severely hampers the team’s ability to be able to acquire the talent necessary to, in this case, sufficiently upgrade a substandard defense.

The Browns did rework Watson’s contract to free up $36 million in cap space, with which to shop for sufficient mortar to shore up last season’s leaky defense.

But until further notice, the Browns are listing out of ballast. Their defense is trying to catch up to their offense, which features perhaps the best running back in the league (Nick Chubb), one of the best quarterbacks in the league (Watson), assuming, in 2023, he returns to his three-time Pro Bowl status, one of the top pass catchers in the league in Amari Cooper, plus a blossoming star in Donovan Peoples-Jones, and, led by guards Joel Bitonio and Wyatt Teller, one of the best offensive lines in the NFL.

You May Also Like

Deal Or No Deal? Congress Set To Vote Whether Debt Ceiling Agreement

Getty Images Key takeaways There’s an agreement in principle in place between…

Argentina’s Presidential Primaries Could Be Headed To A Three Way Tie Between Javier Milei, The Opposition (JxC), And The Peronists

Ultra-libertarian Milei has become the defining factor of this year’s elections. BAT…

Is It Worth Saving Money When You’re Young?

getty Several years ago, a Cambridge study suggested auto-enrollment alone would not…

Largest Bank In Every State Of 2023

Regions Bank, whose headquarters is in Alabama, is the largest bank by…

Russia Issues Arrest Warrant For Lindsey Graham Over Ukraine Support

Russia’s Interior Ministry issued an arrest warrant for Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)…

Today’s Wordle #710 Hints, Clues And Answer For Tuesday, May 30th

How to solve today’s Wordle. PA Images via Getty Images Well, you…

The IRS Admits Race Disparity In Their Audit Selection

Lawmakers are taking a closer look at how the IRS selects taxpayers…

The Rise Of Right-Wing Populism Could Obliterate Kirchnerism While Threatening The Expected Victory Of The Opposition

Javier Milei has shaken up the Argentine political system. Joaquin Temes Logic…