It goes without saying, especially in the AFC North, that you need to run the ball. Strangely enough, you must also be able to stop it. One player who may be able to help the Cleveland Browns may be free agent defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins.
With the first full week of free agency now in the books, and widely considered on of the biggest winners so far—unless you ask a certain hack from ESPN who shall remain nameless—Cleveland wisely addressed a porous offensive line in signing J.C. Tretter, Kevin Zeitler and extending Joel Bitonio.
While the offensive line—and wide receiver—were addressed, the question that begs to be answered is how will Cleveland shore up the equally suspect defensive line?
With many mock drafts projecting the Browns to select former Texas A & M defensive end Myles Garrett and address an area that was among the worst in QB pressures, sacks and rushing yards allowed per game, a player who could very well help them could be the aforementioned Hankins.
Johnathan Hankins is a 24-year-old 6’2 320-pound defensive tackle from THE Ohio State University. He registered 29 solo tackles and three sacks, in 2016, with the New York Giants. The 2013 second round pick out of the Detroit suburb of Dearborn Heights is currently seeking a big pay day in the amount of $10 million a year, per media reports.
In 16 games with the Giants, Hankins had 43 combined tackles, three sacks, and one forced fumble. For his career, the four-year vet has 140 tackles, ten sacks, and three forced fumbles.
While his stats don’t jump out at you Johnathan Hankins is more of a run-stuffer. Moreover, he would greatly improve Cleveland’s run defense if paired with Danny Shelton in the middle.
Question is, will the Browns bite on his $10 million a year demands?
Currently, the Browns have second-highest amount of salary cap space still available. Around $60 million. As a result, the analytics-driven Browns front office would be smart in at least making the still young Hankins an offer. Ultimately, he would fill an area of need on the defensive line.
Picture a stout run-stuffing interior duo of Hankins next to Shelton. By the same token, the projected Garrett coming off of one edge and Emmanuel Ogbah off of the other. Suddenly, instead of having one of the worst run defenses, Cleveland would vault into a potential top-ten unit overnight.
Some might call such a statement a bit hyperbole. However, considering new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ track record on defense and pass-rushing, it may not be far out of the realm of reality.
The question is, will the Browns actually go after Hankins or address DL during the upcoming draft?
Only time will tell.