Saturday, September 24, 2022

Browns urged to reunite with Pro-Bowl LB amid string of injuries

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The Cleveland Browns sent word to the AFC North by taking on the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night, but the win came at a cost.

Linebacker and defensive captain Anthony Walker Jr. was out for the season after tearing a tendon and team doctors carted him off the field. The status of sophomore standout Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah remains up in the air, just as it was scheduled for an MRI Friday to determine the extent of a groin injury.

The silver lining is that the Browns won’t return to the field until October, with 10 days off between games after a short week. Cleveland will have to spend some of that time scouring the free-agent market for answers on how to supplement the position group as starting linebackers drop right and left.

Among the smoothest and most logical resolutions is Cleveland stalking a familiar face in ex-Browns LB Joe Schobert.

Cleveland selected Schobert in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL draft. He produced moderate performance in his rookie season, starting in four games but appearing in all 16. But by his sophomore year, the linebacker had already made his mark on the NFL.

Schobert, now 28, became a full-time starter and led the league that season with 144 tackles and earned his only trip to the Pro Bowl. Over a three-year period from 2017 to 2019, Schobert started 45 games for the Browns, missing just three through injury.

The linebacker left Cleveland for the Jacksonville Jaguars the following season, where his steady production continued. Schobert played with the Steelers last season and made a brief stint with the Denver Broncos in August before being released. He is currently a free agent.

Should the Browns decide to go after Schobert, they may be best served sooner or later given that he practiced for the New York Giants earlier this week. Over his career, Schobert has amassed 661 tackles, including 23 tackles for losses, 30 passes defended, 26 quarterback hits, 11 sacks, 10 interceptions, 10 forced fumbles and a defensive touchdown, according to the Pro Football Reference.

Should Cleveland prove unable to bring Schobert back into the fold, there are a handful of other viable options available in free agency as well. Perhaps the most important of these is former Giants defensive captain Blake Martinez.

Martinez, 28, was an extremely durable starter for the first five years of his career, the first four of which were a member of the Green Bay Packers. Between 2017-20, the linebacker started 64 out of a possible 64 games. In 2021 he was named team captain in New York before suffering a cruciate ligament rupture in week 3 at the end of the season.

The Giants brought Martinez back in 2022 and named him as a member of the original 53-man roster before releasing him on May 1.

Martinez, like Schobert, actively attends NFL teams. His last tryout was with the Las Vegas Raiders on Thursday.

Linebackers Anthony Hitchens and Jarrad Davis also remained free agents as of Friday, September 23.

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