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Mychal Kendricks gives Browns another proven playmaker at linebacker

Mychal Kendricks wasn’t able to suit up for Tuesday’s organized team activity practice but one look at the linebacker’s resume suggests he could play a major role for the Browns.

Kendricks, the former Eagles standout who signed with the team early Tuesday, is the latest addition to a roster that’s undergone significant changes over the past few months. After starting in Philadelphia's Super Bowl win over the Patriots this past winter, Kendricks, who was released by his former club two weeks ago, hopes to leave a mark in Cleveland. 

“I chose the Browns because it gives me an opportunity to showcase my talent,” Kendricks said in his first meeting with Cleveland reporters. “Their scheme fits me best.”

Kendricks, who spent the previous six seasons with the Eagles, gives Cleveland’s already-impressive group of linebackers, at the very least, additional depth and experience. Held out of Tuesday’s session for precautionary health reasons — the Browns don’t see a need to rush him back following ankle surgery in March —  Kendricks figures to earn playing time somehow, someway going forward. 

“He’s a really good football player. Obviously, he brings a unique skill set to our football team,” coach Hue Jackson said. “He can cover. He can rush. He can play the run. He can play the pass. He can play at all three different spots, which I think is very good. His versatility is outstanding. But as I said last week, if we have chances to add really good football players to our team, then we will. That’s what we have done.”

Once the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year at Cal-Berkeley and a second-round pick in 2012, Kendricks started 74 games in Philadelphia and became something of a star before his playing time decreased in recent years. Perhaps his best season came in 2013, when he finished with 106 tackles (including 15 for loss), four sacks and three interceptions.

Though Kendricks’ track record of production is clear, it’s still too early to determine exactly how defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will use him. He enters a linebacker room that returns all three of its starters -- Christian Kirksey, Joe Schobert and Jamie Collins — and drafted promising rookie Genard Avery in the fifth round. Schobert, fresh off his first Pro Bowl, and Kirksey combined for 282 tackles and played every snap in 2017. Collins, the former Pro Bowler and Patriots standout, missed most of last year because of a knee injury that required surgery. 

Jackson, asked about the addition of Kendricks, cited the need for competition at every position.

“I think that our players get it. Our job is to put the best football players on the team, then let that take care of itself,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with that. I think that our guys welcome that. I don’t think that anybody is upset because we put better football players on the team.”

Kirksey, a team captain, echoed a similar sentiment.

“As a competitor, we're competing our whole lives. That’s something that separates us from everybody else, our competitive attitude,” he said. “I think that it's going to be fun. Completion is fun. I think that he can play all three linebacker positions. He's obviously proven himself in the league. He's won a Super Bowl. There are a lot of things that he can teach us.”

In his final season in Philadelphia, Kendricks bounced back from a tough 2016 campaign (32 tackles, eight starts) to start in all three of the Eagles’ playoff games. Now, he’s looking forward to turning around a team that didn’t win a game in 2017.

“I like the scheme here, I’m familiar with the coaches and I want to be a part of an uprising," he said. "That’s cool to me. I like that. We're going to win some games and I want to be a part of that.”

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