Free Agency

Browns 2016 free agency breakdown: Defensive backs

Ray Horton's defense is built around pressuring the quarterback. But don't take that for a lack of emphasis on the secondary, which will play a key role in the Browns defensive coordinator's blueprint to revitalize Cleveland's defense.

"We've got to find a way to become a suffocating, championship defense," Horton said last month in his first press conference since returning to the Browns after two seasons with the Tennessee Titans.

Of course, that means tightening up an injury-plagued secondary that finished 22nd against the pass last season.

Horton said he expects big things out of Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden (whose season was hampered by injuries before being placed on IR in December) while Donte Whitner (a three-time Pro Bowl selection) and Tramon Williams bring more than two decades of combined experience.

While the Browns have made it clear they intend to build their team through the draft, free agency -- which starts Wednesday -- offers Cleveland a chance to potentially scoop up other playmakers in the secondary who might be able to have an immediate impact.

Who's back? (2015 stats)

Joe Haden - 5 games, 22 tackles, two passes defensed (put on IR in December)

Donte Whitner - 14 games, 81 tackles, four passes defensed, one forced fumble, 1.5 sacks

Tramon Williams - 15 games, 69 tackles, 10 passes defensed, one interception

Charles Gaines - 15 tackles, two passes defensed, one forced fumble

K'Waun Williams - 13 games, 39 tackles, 2 passes defensed, 3 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries

Pierre Desir - 14 games, 37 tackles, five passes defensed

Jordan Poyer - 14 games, 42 tackles, two interceptions, four passes defensed, one fumble recovery

Justin Gilbert - 9 games, 10 tackles, one pass defensed

Ibraheim Campbell – 15 games, 10 tackles

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu

Sean Baker

Tim Scott

Contract talk

Tashaun Gipson (unrestricted free agent) - 13 games, 60 tackles, two interceptions, two pass deflections

Johnson Bademosi (unrestricted free agent) - 16 games, 27 tackles (15 special teams tackles), two pass deflections, one fumble recovery

Don Jones (restricted free agent) – 5 special teams tackles

2015 rankings of note

Total defense - 379.2 yards per game - 27th in the NFL (10th in 2014)

Pass defense - 251 yards per game - 22nd in the NFL

Yards per pass attempt - 8.2 yards - 31st in the NFL

Passing touchdowns - 34 - T-30th

Top DBs available (Rankings from NFL.com's Top 99 NFL Free Agents)

  1. Eric Weddle, Chargers
  1. Janoris Jenkins, Rams
  1. Sean Smith, Chiefs
  1. Prince Amukamara, Giants
  1. Reggie Nelson, Bengals
  1. George Iloka, Bengals
  1. Tashaun Gipson, Browns
  1. Walter Thurmond, Eagles
  1. Casey Heyward, Packers
  1. Adam Jones, Bengals
  1. Rodney McLeod, Rams
  1. Rashad Johnson, Cardinals
  1. Leon Hall, Bengals
  1. Patrick Robinson, Chargers
  1. William Gay, Steelers
  1. Nolan Carroll, Eagles
  1. Jerraud Powers, Cardinals
  1. Michael Griffin, Titans
  1. David Bruton, Broncos

What about the draft?

You have to start with Florida State's Jalen Ramsey, who's considered the best overall defensive back in the draft and one of the top overall talents coming out of college.

And while the Browns — who hold the second and 32nd picks in April's draft — said they'll choose the best players regardless of position, it'd be uncommon to see a defensive back selected that high in the draft.

With that said, this year's draft class is loaded with quality safeties and cornerbacks, and there should be plenty of talent around late in the first round and so on. Keep an eye on Florida's Vernon Hargreaves, Ohio State's Eli Apple and Vonn Bell, Virginia Tech's Kendall Fuller and Clemson's Mackensie Alexander.

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