The Cleveland Browns used their first significant move of the free agency period to lock down pass rushing help off of the edge.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network broke the news on Monday, March 13, that the Browns intend to ink edge rusher Ogbonnia Okoronkwo to a three-year contract. Monday is the first day of legal tampering ahead of the league’s official free agency period that begins on March 15. The agreement between the Browns and Okoronkwo can not be finalized until then.
“Obo Okoronkwo is signing with the #Browns, getting a 3-year deal worth $19M with a chance to make $22M. He gets $12.5 million guaranteed,” Rapoport wrote.
Okoronkwo Joins Browns After Career Year With Texans
Okoronkwo’s deal with Cleveland is the first true pay day he has received since the Los Angeles Rams selected him No. 160 overall in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
He spent the first four years of his career as a linebacker in Los Angeles. Okoronkwo didn’t play in a game during his rookie season but did appear in 33 regular season contests over his final three seasons with the Rams, getting on the field for an average of a little less than 25% of the team’s defensive snaps across those three campaigns. He was a part of the Rams Super Bowl Championship team in 2021.
Okoronkwo amassed 17 quarterback pressures, five tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in that limited backup role in Los Angeles before signing a one-year deal worth $3.25 million to join the Houston Texans in 2022.
Upon arriving in Houston, he made the transition to defensive end and put up a career year for the Texans. Okoronkwo played in all 17 games in 2022, earning eight starts. He tallied 44 tackles, including nine tackles for loss, 17 quarterback pressures, five sacks, two defensed passes and a forced fumble, per Pro Football Reference.
Okoronkwo Poised to Start in Place of DE Jadeveon Clowney
Now as he joins the Browns, Okoronkwo’s role is likely to remain that of a defensive end with the primary mandate of getting his hands on opposing quarterbacks.
It does not appear there is any chance that three-time Pro Bowler Jadeveon Clowney will be back in Cleveland again in 2023 after he suffered a falling out with the team late last season. The Browns dismissed Clowney from practice ahead of their regular season finale after the defensive end made derisive comments about the coaching staff and what he perceived as their favoritism of All-Pro edge rusher Myles Garrett.
“You’re all trying to get [Garrett] into the Hall of Fame instead of winning games,” Clowney told Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com on January 5. “I don’t even think [Garrett] notices. I ain’t trying to say it’s him. I try to get along with everybody I play with. Me and him don’t have a problem. It ain’t his fault, and it’s B.S., and I don’t have time for it.”
Clowney had a down year in 2022, playing in just 12 games and starting only 10 of them due to injury issues and his late-season comments. He amassed just two sacks as opposed to Garrett’s second consecutive season of 16 sacks. Clowney sacked opposing quarterbacks a total of nine times the year prior.
A former No. 1 overall pick, Clowney collected more than $17 million in total earnings from the Browns over the last two seasons, per Spotrac. If Okoronkwo can simply replicate his 2022 success in Cleveland next year, he will offer more than twice the production Clowney did for significantly less money and fewer headaches.