When the Cleveland Browns lost cornerback Buster Skrine and defensive lineman Ahtyba Rubin in free agency earlier in March, the club went out and made corresponding moves to add key veteran replacements. Both Tramon Williams and Randy Starks are proven players who will be counted upon to not only contribute right away, but likely become starters.
The same can't be said about the loss of outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard, and for good reason: Coach Mike Pettine sees more depth at the position than most outside the franchise.
On Tuesday at the owners meetings in Phoenix, Pettine was asked why the Browns haven't added a pass rusher in free agency, and his answer was direct: Scott Solomon and Armonty Bryant.
Emerging from the practice squad late in the season, Solomon was a one-man wrecking-crew in the final two games of the season at Carolina and at Baltimore. Solomon registered eight tackles, one sack, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
Pettine said it's rare for someone to not only climb from the practice squad, but also to be immediately inserted in a game and produce concrete results. On top of that, Solomon spent the first half of the year on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster – a team that plays a completely different style of defense than the Browns.
"Scott Solomon was a guy we were pleased with at the end of the year," Pettine said. "He was very productive for us in the few reps that he played.
"Now, he'll go through our offseason and go through everything … because he came in midstream and that's very hard to do. Once you kind of lose that spring and training camp, you don't have the foundation that the other guys do. We're looking for big things from Scott Solomon."
The other quite large revelation from Pettine on Tuesday was the fact that the Browns are considering an experiment with Armonty Bryant as an outside linebacker.
The 24-year-old Bryant solely played defensive end before tearing his ACL on Oct. 12 against the Steelers. But the nifty 6-foot-4, 265-pounder found himself fitting through crevices in the offensive line and was quite often pressuring quarterbacks.
After reviewing last season's film, Pettine sees some flexibility in how Cleveland uses Bryant.
"He's a guy from a pass rush standpoint we felt good about where he was," the second-year head coach said. "We look at him as a guy that could have some position (flexibility) that could play some outside linebacker if need be. He's a guy we felt we could move around."
In front of Bryant and Solomon are Paul Kruger and Barkevious Mingo.
Kruger's 11 sacks last year were a career high and he set up multiple interceptions by living in the backfield. Many considered Kruger to be a Pro Bowl snub.
Mingo courageously played through a shoulder injury, and the coaching staff had to recreate his role as a decoy and cover-linebacker because of it.
Kruger-Mingo-Solomon-Bryant looks juicy on paper, but to Pettine and the Browns, the more pass rushers, the merrier.
"To me, you have to have depth at that group. You have to have the ability to put fresh pass rushers out there, especially late in the game," Pettine said. "Just like corner, I think that's the next position where you have to have depth."