2020 NFL Draft

Browns 2016 free agency breakdown: Defensive line

The Browns hit defensive line hard in both the draft and free agency last season.

One of the few position groups not to be significantly affected by injuries in 2015, the Browns defensive line featured a mix of young (first-year players Danny Shelton, Jamie Meder and Xavier Cooper), players in their prime (Desmond Bryant and John Hughes III) and grizzled veterans (Randy Starks). Overall, the group's performance was steadier than the previous season, but the Browns will be looking to be much better against the run and pressuring the quarterback in 2016.

As the Browns prepare for both free agency, which kicks off next Wednesday, and the draft, here's what they'll be working with.

Who's back? (2015 stats)

Danny Shelton - 16 games, 36 tackles

Desmond Bryant - 14 games, 33 tackles, six sacks, forced fumble

John Hughes III - 16 games, 24 tackles, 1.5 sacks, forced fumble, fumble recovery

Xavier Cooper - 14 games, 19 tackles, 1.5 sacks

Dylan Wynn

Departed

Randy Starks - 15 games, 29 tackles, sack, fumble recovery

Contract talk

Jamie Meder (exclusive rights restricted free agent) - 16 games, 33 tackles, sack

2015 rankings of note

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

Yards per rush attempt - 4.5 - 27th (32nd in 2014)

Rushing touchdowns - 11 - T-17th (T-20th in 2014)

Sacks - 29 - 28th (27th in 2014)

  1. DT Malik Jackson, Broncos
  1. DE Olivier Vernon, Dolphins
  1. DE Jason Pierre-Paul, Giants
  1. DE Mario Williams, Bills
  1. DT Jaye Howard, Chiefs
  1. DT Damon Harrison, Jets
  1. DE Chris Long, Rams
  1. DT Nick Fairley, Rams
  1. DE Derrick Shelby, Dolphins
  1. DE Robert Ayers, Giants
  1. DT Ian Williams, 49ers
  1. DT Haloti Ngata, Lions
  1. DT B.J. Raji, Packers
  1. DE Greg Hardy, Cowboys
  1. DT Terrance Knighton, Redskins
  1. DE Cedric Thornton, Eagles
  1. DE William Hayes, Rams
  1. DE Courtney Upshaw, Ravens
  1. DT Akiem Hicks, Patriots
  1. DE Jarvis Jenkins, Bears
  1. DT Brandon Mebane, Seahawks

What about the draft?

Per CBSSports.com's position rankings, there are 15 defensive ends and defensive tackles who have the potential to be selected in the first round. What makes this year's draft class so valuable, though, is its depth. NFL Network's Mike Mayock raved about the group, particularly this year's class of interior linemen, during last week's NFL Combine broadcast, saying many players who receive first-round grades from teams will fall into the second round and beyond.

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