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Browns taking a smart approach, building on the line. Jim Schwartz has influence – Terry Pluto

The Plain Dealer  Cleveland logo The Plain Dealer Cleveland 3/14/2023 Terry Pluto,

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Scribbles in my notebook as the Browns continue in free agency

1. Confession time: It’s more fun to write about quarterbacks, running backs and receivers. Offense is easier to understand, more fun to watch. At some point, the Browns are likely to add a wide receiver.

2. But their first three moves were re-signing center Ethan Pocic, signing defensive end Obo Okoronkwo and defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson. The approach says the Browns believe they had to plug leaks in the foundation – the defensive line.

3. GM Andrew Berry has always been willing to spend for offensive linemen. He extended the contracts of Wyatt Teller, Joel Bitonio and Jack Conklin. Signing Conklin as a free agent in 2020 was one Berry’s first big moves when taking over the front office. So it’s logical he made sure Pocic doesn’t leave. His contract is a reported $18 million over three years, which is a fair deal for both parties.

4. The Andrew Berry front office is making the picks working with the coaching staff. But it’s clear new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has a major influence on that side of the ball. Berry has always believed in working with the coordinators in terms of vision for the schemes and the overall composition of the defense. Berry and Schwartz became close in 2019 when they were together in Philadelphia – Berry as assistant GM, Schwartz as the defensive coordinator.

5. Head coach Kevin Stefanski had the final decision on hiring Schwartz, but Berry was excited about what Schwartz could do in Cleveland. Former defensive coordinator Joe Woods was hired before Berry came on board as GM. Not to say there was a split between the two, but it’s obvious Schwartz comes with a stronger history of success.

6. Stefanski was a defensive back at Penn, but his NFL background is offense. Woods was not strong enough to be what amounted to the head coach of the defense in the Browns’ current setup with Stefanski spending so much time with Deshaun Watson and the offense.

7. The Browns know Job One for the off-season is the GET THE DEFENSE FIXED! They can’t have another year of blown pass coverage and a line being blown away by opposing strong running attacks. You can’t make the playoffs with those obvious problems. They wanted an experienced hand on the defense and a voice with the front office to address the problems. That’s Schwartz, who spent five years as head coach of the Lions and 15 years as a defensive coordinator.

8. While some of Cleveland’s critics claimed the linebackers were a big part of the problem defending the run, I heard Schwartz has a different take. To him, it’s about the defensive line ... and even more about the defensive line.

9. That’s why the Browns made a big offer to sign Javon Hargrave, who eventually went to San Francisco for $84 million ($40 million guaranteed) over four years. Tomlinson signed a four-year, $57 million deal ($27 million guaranteed) with the Browns. He was their second choice at defensive tackle.

10. I hear Schwartz is upbeat about returning tackles Jordan Elliott and Perrion Winfrey, hoping one of them emerges to play next to Tomlinson. Schwartz and some of his new assistants are supplying a fresh set of opinions on players on the current roster. The defense desperately needs this.

11. Ohio State product Tommy Togiai will have a fresh start with Schwartz. He did little in his chances before, Schwartz is open to anyone who can help. He wants to play several on the defensive line.

Read more from Terry Pluto.

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