Over the course of the 2016 offseason, the Cleveland Browns lost not just one, but both of their starting safeties. Tashaun Gipson, the budding young aspirant at the position who has been the team’s starter for the past three seasons, was part of the immediate wave of Browns free agents to bail, signing with the Jaguars early in free agency.
Later in the offseason, Cleveland also chose to release veteran safety Donte Whitner, the timing of which was criticized by several players, believing that if they had known it was their intention to release him, then it should have been done earlier to give him a better opportunity to hit the free agent market.
Regardless, needless to say, the Browns found themselves needing to address the safety position after losing over 1800 snaps’ worth of play on the field from the 2015 season (Gipson missed three games during the year, and Whitner missed two).
Cleveland really mixed and matched in the secondary—as a matter of fact, all players in the secondary are officially listed as defensive backs on their site’s roster—with K’Waun Williams, Jordan Poyer, and Ibraheim Campbell all seeing time on the field at different points of the season.
When Whitner missed a stretch of two games in the middle of the season, it was Campbell who started the first game in his place, with Williams also seeing some snaps, though Williams played primarily as a nickel cornerback, though Poyer replaced him the following week.
It was also Poyer who was primarily responsible with filling in for Gipson while he missed three games earlier in the season with a concussion, though he officially only ‘started’ two of the games. He recorded eight tackles in the game he did not start, seeing all but four snaps.
Poyer, in fact, logged the fifth-most snaps in the secondary for the season, over 400 in total, in 14 games and four starts—effectively five—registering 42 tackles, two interceptions, and a sack. Presumably, he will be one of the top candidates to land one of the starting safety jobs.
As will Campbell, a third-year former fourth-round draft pick, though he only logged about 100 defensive snaps last season in 15 games, logging one start, the first of the two that Whitner missed, as Poyer was also out for that game.
They will have to compete with veteran Rahim Moore, who has been a primary starter for the past four seasons with the Broncos and Texans, but who has dealt with injuries and ineffectiveness in two of the past three years. Last year, he was benched after seven games and spent the rest of the season as an inactive.
All told, this is not a very compelling group of players, but they did add safety Derrick Kindred in the fourth round, who was a top performer at his position group at the Combine in the 40-yard dash and vertical jump.
Between Campbell, Poyer, Moore, and Kindred, the Browns will have to piece together a new starting safety tandem that can compete with some of the elite receiving talent that their division rivals in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Baltimore can boast.