CLEVELAND, Ohio – Browns general manager Andrew Berry was excited to land a quality starter in free agency at safety John Johnson III.
The Browns’ main target, Berry, described Johnson in a statement provided by the team as a player who “doesn’t usually make it to the free-agent market.”
Signed to a three-year deal worth $ 33.75 million, Johnson will start at safety against 2020 second-round pick Grant Delpit if he is 100% healthy, and alongside Ronnie Harrison also in three-pack insurance.
If the Rams hadn’t ended up with $ 22.2 million in dead space in the salary cap after the Jared Goff for Matt Stafford trade, they probably would have re-signed Johnson, their 2017 third-round pick from Boston College. Instead, they re-signed lead running back Leonard Floyd to a four-year deal worth $ 64 million and let both Johnson and cornerback Troy Hill sign with the Browns.
“We think [Johnson] he was one of the most versatile safes in the NFL, ”Berry said. “He can play with free security, strong security and can play in the box with a nickel or a dime. His breadth of skills that he brings to the table, that he can play male cover, he can play center field, he can support the run and really do everything at a pretty high level. It’s perfect for what we want to be as a defender.
“Besides that, you have his intelligence and his natural leadership. That’s something we’ll always be looking to add to the mix, and we feel we’re lucky it was available. “
Johnson was this year’s version of right tackle Jack Conklin, his number one goal as a free agent who will largely be relied on to transform his side of the ball.
“The general mindset that goes into free agency any year is to try to be opportunistic and address improvement in all areas of the roster,” Berry said. “I think we were in a position where we had enough flexibility from a capitalization perspective where if we felt there was a player that aligned with our needs, if their skill set matched what we want to do within our scheme and He fit the profile of smart, strong, responsible, young, durable, so we can go aggressively and attack that player.
“We were able to do that with John Johnson III, but really even after that, I think a lot of the free agent activity and how we navigate the free agent market is trying to be opportunistic buyers. I think that’s something that we were really able to achieve with the guys that we added. “
Here’s what Berry had to say about the other free agents the Browns signed:
Former Raiders OF Takkarist McKinley
1 year, $ 4.25 million, $ 1 million signing bonus, $ 3.5 million guaranteed
The Browns tried to acquire McKinley four times last season, including once through a trade with the Falcons and three times through the waiver. As McKinley said during his introductory press conference, the fifth time was the charm. McKinley, 25, is determined to get his career back on track here after losing favor with the Falcons and not being signed by the Raiders.
If he finishes at No. 2 defensive end against Myles Garrett, it will be a tremendous bargain. If he’s part of the rotation like No. 3, it’ll be worth the money. The Browns also brought in 2014 No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney for a visit Wednesday, and will consider hiring him if he recovers from surgery to repair a torn meniscus.
“We see Takk as a leading young player with a very high engine,” Berry said. “He has speed, he has power and he has speed. It really plays with her hair on fire. He got off to a very strong start to his career, and I know he’s dealt with a few injuries in the last two years, but we think his style of play and skill set fit very well with what we look for from our defensive ends in this system. and he’s a guy that we think really has a lot of advantages and fits very well with what we want to do on the defensive line. “
Former Rams Nickel Corner Troy Hill
2-year, $ 9 million, $ 3.5 million signing bonus, $ 4.5 million average, and guaranteed
Hill, who turns 30 in August, replaces Kevin Johnson at the nickel cornerback and should improve the position. As a full-time starter for the first time in 2020 for the NFL’s number one defense, Hill led the NFL with three defensive touchdowns, two on interception returns and one fumble. Playing primarily in the slot, he made a career-high 77 tackles and intercepted three passes.
Originally from Youngstown, Ohio, Hill can also start overseas in place of Greedy Williams or Denzel Ward if necessary.
“Troy is a versatile corner who has played inside and out,” Berry said. “He’s a smart soccer player who can play with male coverage, zone coverage, flip the ball, and he’s a solid tackler. We all saw it as a big part of defensive success in Los Angeles last year, and for us, the ability to have a corner that can play at a high level both on the outside and on the inside gives us a lot of flexibility with who we currently have in the league. list and who can we add in the future. “
Former Colts LB Anthony Walker
1 year, $ 3.5 million
Walker, 25, was hired to replace center linebacker BJ Goodson and improve speed at the position. Almost like a coach on the field, Walker tirelessly studied filmmaking and distributed notes to his teammates. The ‘green dot’ caller was such an important leader that teammates like All-Pro Darius Leonard regretted his departure. Walker will likely start on base defense and be on the field on the nickel with Jacob Phillips. He can cover backs coming out of the backfield and play with both Will and Mike.
“Anthony’s name of the game is really speed and instincts,” Berry said. “He’s one of the fastest linebackers in the league. It is a very fast and very smart processor. We think he’s a guy whose range and tenacity fit very well with the way we view linebacker today. We also think he’s a good cover type, specifically with his ability to match running backs outside the backfield.
“Like John Johnson, on top of that, he has a veteran level of experience. He called up the defense in Indianapolis and has played as MIKE and WILL. He is an exceptional human being both on and off the pitch and will have a very strong presence in our dressing room. “
Former Eagles manager Malik Jackson
1 year, ($ 4.5 million, according to Josina Anderson)
Jackson, 31, was hired for depth at position and to bring some heat to the middle. Jackson had produced six double-digit quarterback seasons in his nine-year career, including 13 last season with the Eagles. Originally a Broncos fifth-round pick outside of USC in 2021, Jackson spent the 2019 season in Philadelphia while Andrew Berry was there, and a season in Denver with Joe Woods.
Jackson and McKinley play with high engines and should be able to help shake up the quarterback.
“Malik is a self-made defensive tackle who had also been with Joe Woods before in Denver,” said Berry, who met Jackson for a season in Philadelphia. “What we like the most about Malik is his ability to impact the quarterback as an inside running back. He played three techniques and has played what we call “the grand finale.” But what we love about him is his length, speed and tenacity as an inside runner to give us more presence in situations of passing over guards and centers ”.
* Former Cowboys OT Greg Senat
1 year, undisclosed
Senat started the 2020 season on the Browns’ practice team, but the Cowboys signed him to their active roster and he played in 10 games, mostly on special teams. A sixth-round pick for the Ravens in 2018, he spent most of his first two seasons on IR with the Ravens and Chiefs. Senat will provide depth in place of Kendall Lamm, who signed with the Titans.
“He’s a very physically talented tackle who’s still new to the sport,” Berry said. “We think he made great progress on our practice team last year and we did everything we could to retain him when Dallas signed him on their active roster. We feel lucky to be able to bring him back with Bill Callahan and Scott Peters and add him to the mix to compete for our fourth tackle job. We think he’s a very physically gifted guy. He’s very studious and he’s a hard worker, and he fits the profile of the guys who usually do well. “
* His own free agents, including WR Rashard Higgins, LB Malcolm Smith and K Cody Parkey.
“We’re very excited to have guys like Rashard, Malcolm, JoJo (Natson) and Cody and guys like that because it doesn’t always work that way,” Berry said. “Those guys played a big role for us last year, and we look forward to the role they will play for us in 2021.”
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