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Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Browns position outlook: Linebacker

By Pat McManamon

2014 Free agents: None.

The good: Jabaal Sheard’s transition from a down 4-3 end to a standup 3-4 linebacker went better than many expected. Sheard was very active in rush and coverage situations and shows potential to be a serious player. D’Qwell Jackson continues to play well in the middle, be it in a 3-4 or 4-3.

The bad: Paul Kruger was a disappointment after being given a large free-agent contract a year ago. Kruger is a dedicated, standup and good guy, but he has limitations in his game. He’s stiff in pass rush, and appears to be a solid player, but not a huge impact guy. First-round draft pick Barkevious Mingo had moments, but he needs to get stronger and develop more pass-rush moves if he’s going to be a big-time NFL player.

The money: Kruger is due $8.2 million, but he’ll be kept because he was signed by the new regime. Jackson’s $8.1 million cap cost includes a $4 million roster bonus. CEO Joe Banner’s pattern in Philadelphia was not to pay guys as they aged, so it will be interesting to see what the Browns decide on this.

Draft priority: The Browns badly need another inside linebacker, perhaps two if they let Jackson go. The new staff’s belief in Mingo will be interesting to watch. He lacks the strength an NFL linebacker needs, and has to show he has the skills.