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Free Agency

Jordan Hicks believes the Browns have "a recipe for something special" 

Hicks played three seasons under DC Jim Schwartz in Philadelphia

Jordan Hicks Feature 3.14:

Jordan Hicks knows a thing or two about Jim Schwartz's defensive style.

Hicks played for Schwartz in Philadelphia from 2016-18 and started all 35 games he played over those three seasons. The Eagles went on a successful run in that stretch, and while Hicks missed a majority of the 2017 Super Bowl run with an Achilles injury, Hicks still found success in Schwartz's system.

Six years later, the linebacker veteran is reunited with his former defensive coordinator, as he signed a contract with the Browns on March 14. He returns to the attack-oriented defense under Schwartz as defensive coordinator in Cleveland.

"One thing about Jim and his defense is it's concise. You know your role and you know how offenses are going to attack you," Hicks said. "When I look back on my career and I look back at the times and the years that I played as clear-minded as I ever have, it was with him. It was those years with Coach Schwartz. And I think that's just due to the preparation that he brings, the understanding of the defense, the understanding of how offenses are going to try to scheme you up and then just executing at a high level."

The Browns' defensive success in 2023 was a major draw for Hicks. They led the league in total defense (270.2 yards per game), passing defense (164.7 yards per game) and third-down percentage at 29.1 percent.

Hicks also had a number of connections who were a part of the Browns' defense in 2023. He played with S Rodney McLeod in Philadelphia, as well as DT Dalvin Tomlinson and DE Za'Darius Smith during his two seasons with the Vikings. He'll have the chance to reunite with Tomlinson and Smith, as Smith re-signed with the Browns on March 13 and Tomlinson is under contract.

"I have followed their careers and obviously got to play with them personally," Hicks said. "And just watching them, talking to them, obviously, is a huge part of free agency and just understanding different situations."

The Browns linebacker room saw some change this offseason, as free agents Anthony Walker Jr. and Sione Takitaki signed with other teams. However, Hicks still believes they can have a dynamic linebacker room alongside Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and newly signed Devin Bush.

"I think with the opening at linebacker and the talent that this group has, and this organization has, I think it's a recipe for something special," Hicks said.

Hicks has appeared in 122 games with 119 starts with the Eagles (2015-18), Cardinals (2019-21) and Vikings (2022-23). He has recorded 873 career tackles, 14.5 sacks, 13 interceptions, 11 fumble recoveries and six forced fumbles. Hicks has also registered at least 100 tackles in each of the past five seasons. 

Owusu-Koramoah had a breakout season in 2023 as he established himself in Schwartz's defense. He led the Browns with 98 tackles, while also adding 3.5 sacks, six passes defensed and one forced fumble. He finished fourth in the NFL with 20 tackles for loss during the regular season, with an additional four in the Wild Card game against the Texans.

Bush signed with the Seahawks for the 2023 season, and he played in 13 games with 37 tackles and five tackles for loss.

"You look at JOK and his natural ability. I mean, he's all over the field. I've watched him for years now. Got a ton of respect for his game," Hicks said. "Have played against and competed against Devin Bush multiple times. So got a lot of respect for those guys. Excited to get in the room and get back established, get back to playing football, because that's what we do this for."

He's also heard about the culture of the Browns' locker room, especially among the defense. Even though he hasn't met several of his teammates yet, he picked up on it during the first few hours in CrossCountry Mortgage Campus.

It reminded of similarities from 2017, when the Eagles went on to win the Super Bowl that season. While Hicks was hurt for a portion of the season, he watched as different players stepped in and played important roles in their success. It created a culture in their locker room about supporting one another whoever was on the field and on the sideline.

The Browns experienced the same type of mentality during the 2023 season as they dealt with a plethora of injuries to both sides of the ball and relied on the next man up mentality.

"You can tell it's something special," Hicks said. "Culture within a building can propel you to win the type of games that a lot of people don't expect you to win."

Hicks is entering his 10th year in the league and knows that his level of experience in different situations, as well as his familiarity with Schwartz, can be beneficial in the linebacker room and the defense as a whole. During his four seasons with the Eagles – even as a young player – he took on a leadership role. With the Browns, he's ready to do so once again.

"I don't force anything," Hicks said. "I try to just be who I am. I try to be authentic. I try to be genuine and I'm here to help. I'm here to aid in other people's maturation and grow all our IQs and our ability to play together. And I think that when you have eleven guys on a defense who are playing with that type of mindset to serve and to help each other to grow, to excel, I think that's what makes certain defenses special. So again, I'm just here to be me, do my role and obviously, fit in well with this team."

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