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If the Browns stick with a 4-3 defense, Maiava must stay.
Another Browns pending free-agent defender, Kaluka Maiava, has also made a strong case in 2012 for a new contract. According to Pro Football Focus, he's the NFL's seventh-ranked 4-3 outside linebacker, with 35 tackles, three sacks, a quarterback hit and three hurries. He's also allowed only 65 percent of the passes thrown his way to be completed, with opposing quarterbacks having a 72.5 rating in his direction.
Maiava split time on the field with James-Michael Johnson, Craig Robertson and L.J. Fort depending on the situation, playing weak-side backer in Weeks 1 through 9 and strong-side backer in Weeks 11 onward. He was named starter in all but three games and played in all 16, with 498 total snaps on the year—304 against the run, 166 in coverage and 28 as a pass-rusher.
Though the possibility exists that the Browns switch from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4, putting Maiava's future in Cleveland in question, if that doesn't happen, he must be retained. He's experienced, and whether the Browns choose to involve their younger linebackers more next year or keep Maiava at starter (even after Chris Gocong's likely return from his Achilles' tendon tear), he's clearly of high value to the Browns.