Browns offseason priorities: Safeties. A healthy Grant Delpit would be big lift, but insurance needed
Editor's note: The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic eliminated the NFL Scouting Combine in its traditional form this winter. In its place, over the next two weeks, we offer our own position-by-position look at some draft prospects who might be on the radar of the Browns and break down each position group on their current roster. Here's a look at safeties:
On paper, the future is bright with 2020 second-round draft pick Grant Delpit at free safety and September trade acquisition Ronnie Harrison at strong safety. Yet Delpit must prove he can rebound from the ruptured Achilles tendon he suffered in August before this tandem can become a reality on the field. Defensive coordinator Joe Woods loved Delpit's versatility at Louisiana State University and thought it would allow him to deploy the dime package he often used when he held the same job with the Denver Broncos from 2017-18. Although General Manager Andrew Berry is bullish on Delpit bouncing back, insurance is obviously needed.
More:Browns offseason priorities: Cornerbacks. Denzel Ward is elite, but an upgrade opposite of him is possible
On the roster
Aside from Delpit and Harrison, only players who will find themselves on the roster bubble are under contract. They are Sheldrick Redwine, Jovante Moffatt and Elijah Benton.
Strong safety Karl Joseph and free safety Andrew Sendejo are headed for unrestricted free agency March 17 after playing last season on one-year, prove-it deals. Joseph had a better season than Sendejo. Neither were great and shouldn't be counted on to return. If one of them were retained, it would probably be Joseph. He ranked 75th and Sendejo 88th among the 94 qualifying safeties graded by ProFootballFocus.com. Harrison tied for ninth. Redwine was 90th.
Level of need
A contingency plan at free safety is important, given Delpit's uncertain status. As long as Berry believes Delpit is still the club's future at the position regardless of the injury from which he's rehabilitating, finding a short-term answer this offseason would be more logical than a long-term solution. In other words, signing a starting-caliber free agent for a season or two would make more sense than investing a first-round choice in the April 29-May 1 draft. Veteran free safeties set to hit the open market include Justin Simmons, Anthony Harris, Marcus Williams, Marcus Maye, John Johnson, Xavier Woods, Malik Hooker and Jacquiski Tartt.
Potential day two draft targets
Trevon Moehrig, TCU: In a class light at safety, Moehrig is at the top. Moehrig won the Jim Thorpe Award and made numerous All-American teams for a 2020 where he had eight pass breakups. Moehrig has the foot speed to break on passes and he’s physical enough to play the run.
Names to know later in the draft
Richie Grant, Central Florida: Grant has the coverage skills of a cornerback, but the versatility of a safety. Grant had 10 interceptions and five forced fumbles in his college career.
Ar’Darius Washington, TCU: Washington is small at 5-foot-8 and 179 pounds. But he excels in pass coverage and has speed.
Hamsah Nasirildeen, Florida State: A knee injury limited Nasirildeen to just two games last season. But he’s shown in the past he fits the role as a hybrid safety/linebacker who will is stellar against the run.
Paris Ford, Pittsburgh: A former cornerback, Ford will appeal to the Browns if they want a rangy coverage safety. Ford had six interceptions in three seasons at Pittsburgh.