Andrew Billings was a hot name among Pittsburgh Steelers fans entering the 2016 NFL Draft, after the team lost nose tackle Steve McLendon in free agency. Many fans wanted to see him drafted in the first round, even, believing him to be that dynamic of a player.
The Steelers, of course, ended up drafting Javon Hargrave in the third round, and Billings lasted until the fourth round. Picked up by the Cincinnati Bengals, he had a serviceable though unremarkable tenure. Billings signed with the Cleveland Browns in free agency last offseason, but then opted out for the year in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of dozens of players around the league to make that choice. But he’s eager to get back out on the field now, and with his new team.
“I wanted to be out there,” he told the team’s website about what it was like to watch the Browns last season. “I wanted to be out there in practice. I wanted to be in those meetings. I wanted to be in those games. Coming into next year, it’s even more important for me to get out there and work harder because there’s a team out there that I want to be a part of, so I have to find my place.”
While the Browns lost veteran defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi in free agency, they replaced him with Malik Jackson, who will start alongside Sheldon Richardson, yet another veteran interior defensive lineman who was brought in two years ago.
Billings will not be counted upon to be a starter for the Browns, but he should be a key rotational lineman this year based on the team’s current roster makeup, with second-year Jordan Elliott being the only other defensive tackle on the team.
In three seasons with the Bengals, after missing all of his rookie season due to injury, Billing started 37 of 47 games played between 2017 and 2019, registering a total of 80 tackles, with 14 for loss, and three and a half sacks, to go along with 12 quarterback hits.
Following two straight seasons lining up for 600-plus snaps, his body appreciated the time off, but perhaps his mind was missing the game more. “I noticed the difference in not being beaten on, but I also noticed the difference of not taking any snaps, too,” he said. “It’s a bit of a give-and-take, but I’m planning on getting as many reps as possible to get ready for this season.”
Whether or not there will be any reps to take before training camp remains to be seen. Recently, the NFLPA has become more overt in their stance that they believe there should be no in-person spring workouts this year — something not all players are in favor of.