BEREA — On Wednesday, the Browns introduced Paul Kruger as the team’s first signing in free agency. On Thursday, they followed suit by introducing Desmond Bryant.
“With the additions of Paul and Desmond, we believe that we have significantly improved our defense overall, particularly our front seven,” Banner said. “This was one of our goals entering free agency and we are thrilled we were able to accomplish that. Like Paul, Desmond gives us someone with great size and athleticism for his position, and an ability to rush the passer, the key to any successful defense.”
Kruger was viewed by many as the first prize in free agency for the Browns. However, in the Browns’ eyes, Bryant was hardly a second prize.
“(Desmond) is a player we were very anxious to get,” Banner said. “He’s a very outstanding fit and we’re very lucky to get him.
“We feel fortunate to attract players of this caliber to the Browns.”
Banner said that from before free agency the Browns had both Kruger and Bryant at the top of their list.
“(Kruger and Bryant) are represented by two different agents in the same firm which was the immediate joke that our dream was to get both of (their players).”
Banner was asked if he felt the Browns had made their biggest moves in free agency.
“I think these will be the biggest moves we make (in free agency).”
Banner would not address specific positions the Browns might still be looking for, but it is believed they are still looking for a tight end and defensive backs, particularly at cornerback.
“We laid a plan out and a couple of the guys that were available and fit in to what we wanted to do,” Chudzinski said. “At this point the plan is going to schedule. We have a lot of areas we have to address and improve. The key is getting these guys and getting them in here and on the field.”
Bryant (6-6, 310) originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the Raiders in 2009 from Harvard, Bryant has appeared in 63 games with 18 starts, missing just one game in his career. He has 124 career tackles, including 11.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
“I know what it takes to build a winning team and I’m ecstatic to be a part of it.” Bryant said. “I feel excitement in the building and feel extremely fortunate to be with the Browns.”
Bryant, 27, was asked to describe his style of play.
“Passionate,” he said. “I’m the type of player who is out there giving my 100 percent every play. I would say that I’m passionate and relentless. I play whistle to whistle on every play.”
Bryant is coming off his best season where he had 48 tackles, once forced fumble and a blocked field goal. He tied for the team lead with the Raiders with four sacks, including one in each of his last four games.
Once again, the Browns like his versatility.
“Desmond is a player who possess very good size and athleticism, attributes which make him very difficult to block,” Chudzinski said. “When you watch him play, he is always around the quarterback, and will provide a boost to our pass rush. He is a solid run defender and can play multiple positions along the line, which will allow him to be a part of both our base and sub-packages.”
“My versatility is I can play end and nose,” he said. “One of my strengths as a player is rushing the quarterback and affecting the quarterback. I think I can excel in this system.”
He says he will have no problem in the transition to the Browns defense.
“I played end in Oakland and have played all positions on the line,” he said. “The transition should be smooth, as I’ve played in this.”
Bryant said that joining defensive coordinator’s defense was appealing to him.
“I realized the strengths this place had, particularly Coach Horton in what he has done in this league,” he said. “His style of defense seemed to suit my style of defense.”
Chudzinski and Banner were asked about committing heavily to the defensive line, which already seemed to be a strength of the team.
“In my background, I don’t think you can ever have enough quality defensive linemen,” Chudzinski said. “One of the things that Desmond has exhibited his versatility and that will help us. I see him more as a defensive end in the base and the ability to go inside in the sub.”
Currently, the Browns have Phil Taylor, Ahtyba Rubin, John Hughes, Ishmaa’ily Kitchen, Billy Winn under contract besides Bryant.
Chudzinski confirmed that Jabaal Sheard will be played at outside linebacker.
Chudzinski said a decision hasn’t been made whether Rubin or Taylor will line up at nose tackle.
“We’re going to need to get out on the field and see how that shakes out,” he said.
Banner said the goal was to create a dominant defensive line up front, not to make a trade.
“Our purpose has been to get a really strong unit to rotate and handle injuries with depth and that is what we’re trying to achieve,” Banner said.
“There are three interior spots and we have probably six players probably make the team. There is no reason to think we have abundance (there).”
On the negative side, Bryant was involved in a well-publicized incident Feb. 24, 2013 earlier this off-season where he was arrested for a misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief for allegedly being drunk and wandering into a neighbor’s house in Miami. A mug shot of him went viral on the internet, but he said it was an isolated incident.
“I obviously made a mistake and apologized for everything that happened,” Bryant said. “I’ve moved on and learned from that and feel have exhibited that’s not the person I am and it’s not indicative of me. It was a mistake and I have moved on and hopefully, everybody else has as well.”
Bryant didn’t know if the incident would affect his stock in free agency.
“It’s been a trying time with a little uncertainty of where I’d be working this year,” he said. “The incident happened, but it didn’t define me and don’t think it hasn’t impacted me.”
Banner said that the Browns did their due diligence on him.
“We did everything we could,” Banner said. “We know people who know Desmond very well and looked at his history and felt he would fit in with us here.”
No Phil: Since Banner said the Browns were most likely done with big name signings, that could mean the team will not try to re-sign K Phil Dawson.
Browns Culture: Banner and Chudzinski were asked what the description of the players the Browns were looking to bring in.
“We really want to create a team with character and with the type of people we bring in and have a culture of very hard working determined highly, highly competitive players, who have a team approach first. We want players who are very aggressive offensive and defensive minded.”
Chudzinski broke his thoughts down to one sentence.
“(We want) toughness, relentlessness, guys that are passionate about playing football and being a Cleveland Brown.”
Chud on Groves: Chudzinski was asked about recent free agent OLB Quentin Groves.
“He’s a very athletic linebacker and this past year he really blossomed in the 3-4 and in Ray’s defense,” he said. “He will play every where good special teams player came highly recommended.”
Corners Going: Several CBs linked to the Browns have started to go elsewhere. Cary Williams (Eagles), Sean Smith (Chiefs), Keenan Lewis (Saints) are off the list. At press time those still available were: Aqib Talib, Nnamdi Asomgha, Antoine Cason, Captain Munnerlyn and Tracy Porter.
Banner said he felt the Browns were done with any big free agency signings, so it is unknown if they are still pursuing any of the cornerbacks or tight ends like Fred Davis, Dustin Keller or Brandon Myers.
Mum on Geno: Banner declined to comment when he was asked if he would comment on who represented the Browns at West Virginia QB Geno Smith’s Pro Day. It was reported that 28 of 32 NFL teams were represented. It was also reported that Smith was 60-of-64 in completing passes.
Maiava Gone: The only Browns player that has officially signed with another team is LB Kaluka Maiava with the Raiders. WR/KR Josh Cribbs has been reported to have signed with the Cardinals, but no official deal has been done.