The Cleveland Browns have spent most of the last two seasons building along the defensive side of the ball and look to maintain a line that could compete with some of the elite offenses in the NFL. Although some of the cornerstones seem to be in place, Cleveland could always use another defensive talent to help them through the grind of future NFL seasons.
Ray Edwards could possibly be a player that can not only solidify the Browns' defense, but put them over the top in an AFC North division that has become one of the best in the NFL.
Edwards has been with the Minnesota Vikings for the past six seasons and has slowly become one of the more consistent pass rushing threats in the NFL. Since 2006, Edwards has collected 29.5 sacks, and has collected over 50 tackles on two separate occasions. However, Edwards did serve one league suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy in 2007.
The Browns have not had a defensive player that could match Edwards' pass rushing ability since Kamerion Wimbley posted 11 sacks in 2006 (Marcus Bernard posted 7.5 in 2010). In fact, the Browns were out-sacked by opposing teams in 2010 by a margin of 36-29.
Jabaal Sheard will likely take over one of the starting defensive end positions when the 2011-12 season finally begins. However, even with Sheard's presence, there is still a significant hole at the other end of the defensive line. Matt Roth would likely be a candidate to fill that void, but his future with the club will not be decided until after the lockout is lifted.
Edwards has much greater upside than Roth and has more experience as a true defensive end. Edwards has also played at a high level for several seasons which makes him a more reliable option than anyone on the Browns' current roster.
To many, Cleveland may still be considered a team that is going through a rebuilding process. However, if the Browns manage to acquire some key free agents this fall, then Cleveland may finally be ready to turn the corner and challenge for the AFC North for years to come.