The Browns’ linebackers, at least on paper, would appear to be one of the team’s strongest position groups. Cleveland returns a trio of starters that includes two Pro Bowlers (Jamie Collins and Joe Schobert) and a captain (Christian Kirksey) who’s been one of the league’s most productive players.
So it might have come as a surprise when the Browns earlier this week signed former Eagles standout Mychal Kendricks, a multi-year starter who helped Philadelphia win a Super Bowl last season.
It shouldn’t have been.
“It’s called competition, right? That’s what it is. It’s competition,” head coach Hue Jackson said Tuesday. “I think that our players get it. Our job is to put the best football players on the team and then let that take care of itself. 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.”
Kendricks’ addition to a talented linebackers room underscores Cleveland's resolve to improve every facet of the team in every possible way following a winless season. From linebacker to quarterback, the Browns have taken steps to improve their roster under first-year general manager John Dorsey.
That march started at the beginning of the new league year, when Cleveland’s front office executed trades for former Bills starting quarterback and Pro Bowler Tyrod Taylor, three-time Pro Bowl receiver Jarvis Landry and former Packers defensive back Damarious Randall, one of the league’s up-and-coming defenders.
Kendricks is the latest in a long line of players added to the roster since then, a group that includes players who started for their previous teams, such as running back Carlos Hyde and cornerbacks T.J. Carrie and E.J. Gaines and top-flight rookies in quarterback Baker Mayfield and cornerback Denzel Ward (the No. 1 and No. 4 NFL Draft picks, respectively).
Because of that, Kirksey — who has 286 tackles over the past two seasons — was more or less unfazed by the decision to add another player to his room. “As a competitor, we’re competing our whole lives. That is something that separates us from everybody else – our competitive attitude. I think that it’s going to be fun,” he said.
“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. We have a lot of young guys in the room so adding a veteran player is a lot of wisdom, a lot of knowledge. I'm looking forward to it. I'm a competitor. I've been here my whole career. I've been competing my whole life. I think that those guys enjoy it the same way. At the end of the day, our main focus is winning.”
That, of course, is the point in all of this for a Cleveland team that has won one game in two years.
Jackson, entering his third season with the team, believes training camp later this summer will be the most competitive in that span.
"I wouldn't expect nothing less," he said. "We're going to have some really tough decisions as we go because there are a lot of good football players on this team. That's the way that it should be. I think we have improved every position group on this team. I think we'll have some tough decisions, and I don't think you'd want it any other way.”