The Cleveland Browns are moving into a new era in more than one way. From top to bottom everything is new, at least on the inside, for the Browns as they have a new owner, new general manager, new head coach and a new defensive scheme. Ray Horton’s new 3-4 defense has some holes in it right now but the team is hoping that those can be filled in free agency and the draft.
One piece of the new defense for the Browns is defensive line coach Joe Cullen used to be with the Detroit Lions, and coincidentally so did defensive end Cliff Avril. The Cleveland Plains-Dealer reports that the connection between Cullen and Avril shouldn’t be overlooked, as the ex-Lions pass rusher is on the list of free agent targets for the Browns. The paper also confirms the long standing suspicion that the Browns will target ex-Ravens linebacker Paul Kruger as well.
The Browns will pursue two of the biggest-name pass-rushers in free agency in Baltimore’s Paul Kruger and Detroit’s Cliff Avril, league sources told The Plain Dealer. They’re also likely to go after Raiders defensive tackle Desmond Bryant and Cardinals linebacker Quentin Groves, sources said.
However, while Avril makes sense on the surface in Cleveland, given his connection with Cullen and the Browns public demand for defenders in free agency, the 3-4 scheme clashes a bit with Avril’s style. Traditionally, edge rushers convert to outside linebackers in a 3-4 set and Avril may be looking at doing that very thing in Cleveland.
The fact that the Browns are interested in Kruger suggests that he’d play outside and Avril would be free to play defensive end, however if Baltimore signs both they could set up a defense that features both Kruger and Avril as opposite outside linebackers.
Both Avril and Kruger will be hot commodities come Friday when free agency unofficially opens, as both could have deals in place by the time free agency officially opens on Tuesday.