Earlier this offseason, after the Pittsburgh Steelers failed to draft a safety, which seemed to be in the cards based on their pre-draft interest, I floated some possible suggestions that included attempting to trade for Jets former first-round safety Calvin Pryor, who was possibly going to be cut after falling out of favor and the team taking safeties in the first two rounds.
As of yesterday, Pryor is in the AFC North, but it is in Cleveland, not Pittsburgh. The Steelers did add a safety in Daimion Stafford, who played for Dick LeBeau in Tennessee last year—and the Jets replaced Pryor with former Steelers safety Shamarko Thomas—but the Cleveland Browns acquired the safety by shipping Demario Davis, the inside linebacker, back where he came from—New York.
Since being drafted by the Jets with the 18th spot in 2014, Pryor has started 38 games, recording 184 tackles with two interceptions and 14 passes defensed. He was still starting last season, appearing in and starting 15 games.
Safety was certainly a fair target for the Browns after they lost both of their starting safeties before the 2015 season in Tashaun Gipson and Donte Whitner, but Ibraheim Campbell did well in spots last year, starting eight games while recording 48 tackles. However, the gist is that this is a group in which Pryor is going to instantly have the opportunity to compete for a starting job, if he is not handed one.
Davis was solid for Cleveland last season, but he became expendable after the Browns traded last season for Jamie Collins and then drafted Myles Garrett. The Garrett selection allows Collins to stay inside, where he will pair with Christian Kirksey, whom the Browns just extended yesterday—by no coincidence, I don’t doubt.
It has been a while since Cleveland has fielded a truly competitive group from top to bottom, but you certainly cannot accuse this regime of sitting idly by. While they have had the resources, they have taken advantage of their opportunities in order to add talent to their roster—and to ship it away when they realize it won’t work out. See, Gilbert, Justin. That’s one sixth-round pick the Steelers would like to have back.
It does appear that the Browns are beginning to build a formidable defense. Beginning with big nose tackle Danny Shelton up front, the dynamic pass rusher in Garrett will be integral to this unit reaching its potential. With Collins a versatile threat in the middle and a stockpile of ends and outside linebackers, it seems that the secondary is the group to come last.
In addition to Pryor, the Browns also signed Jason McCourty who seems likely to get a starting role somewhere this year, either at cornerback or safety. Joe Haden remains at cornerback, now finally healthy again, while they expect growth in year two from Briean Boddy-Calhoun.