Browns Dubbed Top Fit for 3-Time All-Pro Bowl Linebacker

The Cleveland Browns have restocked at linebacker in free agency but could stillmake a splash by signing veteran Shaquille Leonard.

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Leonard has a tremendous resume. He was the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2018 and has reeled off a trip of First-team All-Pro seasons. He’s started just 13 games over the last two seasons due to injury. But he is only 28 and could still be a solid contributor.

Leonard was surprisingly released by the Indianapolis Colts last season. The Philadelphia Eagles quickly picked him up, and he started all nine games he appeared in. Leonard recorded 88 tackles, 4 tackles for loss and 1 sack last season in 14 games with the Colts and Eagles.

Bleacher Report dubbed the Browns the best fit for Leonard, who is still looking for his next team.

“While Cleveland signed Jordan Hicks and Devin Bush to address its need at linebacker during free agency, it couldn’t hurt to add one more veteran who can compete for snaps in training camp,” Bleacher Report’s Matt Holder wrote on Sunday, April 7.

“Leonard has battled injuries and said he’s contemplating retirement, but a situation where he’s either a rotational player or two-down defender while ring chasing could be a good fit.”

Shaquille Leonard Contemplated Retirement

Indianapolis Colts: Shaquille Leonard hurt by surprising release

Leonard has been one of the best linebackers in the league but a pair of back surgeries have taken their toll on the former second-round pick. He sounded uncertain of his future after the Eagles were unceremoniously bounced from the postseason in January.

“I think that will be a tough discussion for myself,” Leonard said. “Having two back surgeries, you know, with the back you have to take your time and try to figure this stuff out. You have to see how you look on tape throughout the year. Is it worth (it) to keep going? Are you yourself? Are you a shell of yourself?

“I have a lot to think about this offseason.”

As Bleacher Report notes, Leonard may not need to be a full-time player if he lands with the Browns. That could help with some of the wear and tear.

Browns Retooled at Linebacker in Offseason

The Browns depth chart at linebacker will look quite a bit different than it did a year ago. Rising star Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah remains the focal point of the unit. The team also signed Jordan Hicks and former first-round pick Devin Bush to help out.

Attracting some solid free agents wasn’t hard this offseason after the Browns were the league’s top defense a year ago under Jim Schwartz. That was especially attractive to Hicks, who previously played for Schwartz in Philadelphia.

“One thing about Jim and his defense is it’s concise. You know your role and you know how offenses are going to attack you,” Hicks said during his introductory press conference on March 14. “When I look back on my career and I look back at the times and the years that I played as clear-minded as I ever have, it was with him. It was those years with Coach Schwartz. And I think that’s just due to the preparation that he brings, the understanding of the defense.”

The Browns will start their offseason program on April 15.

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