The NFL free agency and draft rumors continued around the league on Thursday when the Oakland Raiders announced that they will consider releasing linebacker Kamerion Wimbley if the team and player could not agree on a restructured contract in the next few weeks.
Wimbley was once a first-round selection by the Cleveland Browns in 2006, and was a fan favorite in the city of Cleveland before he was traded to the Oakland Raiders for a third-round pick in 2010. The Browns would later use that pick, the 85th overall, on current starting quarterback Colt McCoy.
Wimbley appeared destined for greatness with the Browns franchise early in his NFL career and posted a total of 25.5 sacks in four full seasons with Cleveland. Since the trade to Oakland, Wimbley has remained a consistent pass-rusher and still posted 16 sacks in the last two seasons.
The Browns have had a tough time filling the pass-rushing void that Wimbley left behind when he was traded two seasons ago. However, the Browns now have new coaches, front office and defensive players that may be able to intrigue the former Florida State Seminole back to Cleveland if he is actually released.
The Browns faithful would likely embrace the return of Wimbley to Cleveland's defense based on the lack of depth at the position for the upcoming season. Scott Fujita, Chris Gocong and D'Qwell Jackson are slated to be the starting linebackers on the Browns roster in 2012, and each have had injury concerns over the last few seasons.
Jackson just signed a huge extension with the Browns that will keep him under contract until 2018, but he has already missed over a season-and-a-half due to pectoral injuries. Wear and tear has been more of a concern for Fujita and Gocong as both missed time with various injuries in 2011.
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Wimbley is currently 28 years old and will not turn 29 until Oct. 13. That means that Cleveland could have the opportunity to re-acquire Wimbley as he enters the best portion of his career, and his experience could be valuable to developing young prospects in future seasons.
Oakland will have to decide if they will actually release Wimbley based on contractual issues in the next two weeks. However, whether he is released, Wimbley will always be remembered in Cleveland for one of the most controversial draft trades the Browns have completed in the last decade.
As recalled in an issue of the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 2010:
"In the Browns' draft room, the debate was whether to select defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, the premier run-stopper in that draft, or Wimbley, the second-best pass rusher. Wimbley was a bit of a projection because he played defensive end at Florida State and the Browns planned on converting him to outside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme then run by former head coach Romeo Crennel.
Savage knew Baltimore GM Ozzie Newsome, his former boss, coveted Ngata. Savage asked Crennel, "Do you want the run stopper or the pass rusher?" Crennel gave the nod to the pass rusher. Savage then traded down one spot with his division rival—a taboo move in the NFL. The Ravens paid the bargain price of a sixth-round pick.
Savage used the sixth round pick on Stanford nose tackle Baba Oshinowo, who played one game for the Browns and had two tackles. Ngata has been a stalwart in the middle of the Ravens' defense and has made two Pro Bowl appearances."
Ngata has since continued his success in the NFL and remains one of the most dominant defensive tackles in the history of the Baltimore Ravens franchise.
Brian Murtaugh is a Cleveland Browns Featured Columnist for the Bleacher Report. He is also a columnist for Dawg Scooper: A Cleveland Browns News Source.