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In Cleveland, hope dies last

Browns continue to add talent and depth to the defense

Kansas City Chiefs v Oakland RaidersThe Cleveland Browns continued to add depth to the defense, coming to terms with defensive lineman Desmond Bryant late Tuesday night and outside linebacker Quentin Groves early Tuesday morning.

The moves mean the Browns currently have a six-man rotation on the defensive line where the oldest player is the 27-year-old Bryant, and a six-man linebacker group where the 30-year-old Groves is the oldest.

Not a bad start for the first two-days of free agency for CEO Joe Banner and head coach Rob Chudzinski.

Bryant reportedly signed for five years and $34 million, with $15 million guaranteed. An undrafted free agent out of Harvard, Bryant had 36 tackles and four sacks for Oakland last season. He’s solid against the run and was Pro Football Focus’ sixth-ranked defensive tackle.

He was also reportedly drawing interest from San Francisco, Philadelphia, Seattle and New England, pretty good teams that know a thing or two about defense. So, just like Paul Kruger, this isn’t a case of the Browns signing a player that no one else wanted.

“Desmond is a player who possesses very good size and athleticism, attributes which make him very difficult to block,” Chudzinski said on the team’s website. “When you watch him play, he is always around the quarterback, and will provide a boost to our pass rush. He is a solid run defender and can play multiple positions along the line, which will allow him to be a part of both our base and sub-packages.”

Groves comes over from Arizona, where he played for Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton, on a reported two-year deal for $2.8 million. Groves had career highs in tackles (46) and sacks (four) with the Cardinals in 2012.

“Quentin is a solid player who will be another good addition to our front seven,” Chudzinski said on the team’s website. “He showed pass rush ability last season, working in a 3-4 defense for the first time. Having played for Ray last year, he is familiar with our scheme, and that will allow him to make a smooth transition. He also has been a productive special teams player and can help us in that area as well.”

Groves struggled his first four years in the league playing with Jacksonville and Oakland – not exactly model franchises – and it wasn’t until the Cardinals were the only team to give him a chance last year that Groves seemed to get his career back on track. He’s a solid pick up and will help teach Horton’s defensive concepts. He’s young enough that he should actually be able to contribute on the field as well.

Proving that it is not all about the defense, the Browns also added tight end Gary Barnidge from Carolina and resigned running back Chris Ogbonnaya.

Barnidge caught six passes for 78 yards and a touchdown in 2012 for the Panthers after missing the 2011 season with a broken leg, so he doesn’t have a lot of mileage.

According to the Charlotte Observer, Barnidge is a pass-catching tight end who was stuck behind starter Greg Olsen. (In related news, the Observer reports that quarterback Derek Anderson isn’t coming anywhere near Cleveland; obviously Chudzinski learned his lesson).

Ogbonnaya had eight rushes for 30 yards and caught 24 passes for 187 yards for the Browns in 2012.

While there are no guarantees and no perfect players in free agency, the Browns have done a very solid job so far. They’ve added young players (no aging Jets anywhere to be found) where they needed them on the defense, and did it at a reasonable price.

As we move away from the opening days of free agency – when the money flows free and easy – we would expect the Browns to make a few more moves (corner back Keenan Lewis is still out there, for example).

(Photo by Newsday)

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