Earlier in the week we discussed the possibilities of a couple of Cleveland Browns defensive players making the journey to Valley Ranch to follow Rob Ryan. Shaun Rogers and Abram Elam were the two that were highlighted (here and here), but the Browns have a trio of linebackers who could be on the move, all are free agents.
We may be making too much out of the Rob Ryan/Cleveland Browns connection, but you never know how a coach feels about certain players. Their knowledge of his defense and ability to play it might be enough for Ryan to bring in one or two. Even if they're not coming in as starters, their presence in practice and in meetings while the Cowboys learn the new system could be invaluable.
So, with that in mind, here are three possible candidates that will be free agents. (Hat tip to the Ranch Report for their initial take on this group.)
ILB - D'Qwell Jackson
Jackson had a very productive first few years in the league, but his last two season's have been filled with injury, including missing all of last season with a torn pectoral muscle. Ryan, for one, thinks they missed Jackson's play.
The defense is off to a promising start without Jackson, but coordinator Rob Ryan says it is better off with him. Jackson was breaking through as a third-year Brown in 2008, when he led the NFL with 188 tackles and was a Pro Bowl alternate. Jackson’s 2009 season crashed in Game 6 at Pittsburgh when he severely tore a pectoral muscle.
Jackson has now missed most of the past two seasons, after tearing chest muscles on each side of the chest. The Browns are going in a new direction on defense and could pass on bringing back a player who has missed so much time due to injuries. But there's no denying that when healthy Jackson can play.
A long article about Jackson and his contract issues with the Browns last year can be found here.
OLB - Matt Roth
Roth has bounced around to a couple of teams, and ended up in Cleveland because of a contentious situation down in Miami. But when he acquired him, Rob Ryan was very effusive in his praise.
Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who coached Roth in the Senior Bowl when he was coming out of Iowa, said he hopes to play Roth on Sunday in Cincinnati.
"He's going to be good," said Ryan. "We're looking to play him right away, get him in there with the rest of the guys, get him to know his new teammates. He's a smart, tough guy, with an emphasis on the tough part. That really is what he stands for.
"He's an old wrestler and he really is a tough kid, good competitive kid." Ryan said he was "surprised and excited" that Roth was available. "It's a blessing for us for sure," said Ryan. "Usually you don't find a guy like that late in the year. It's great that we picked him up, and hopefully, he can be a big part of our defense.
"It's just up to us to get him coached up as fast as we can, get him up to speed learning the game plan and see if he can help us win." Ryan said he likes the versatility of Roth, who played defensive end for the Dolphins before switching to outside 'backer in their 3-4 last season.
"It just depends on the fronts we're in and what this guy can do," said Ryan. "He can play defensive end. He can play outside 'backer. I know he started at Iowa as an inside 'backer as well. His position flexibility allows us to play him right away."
Rob Ryan puts a big emphasis on guys who can play multiple positions And Roth was productive.
According to Profootballfocus.com, Roth rated 10th among all outside linebackers in the 3-4 defense, and he was fifth against the run. At 6-4 and 275 pounds, he should be able to play defensive end.
ILB/OLB - Chris Gocong
Gocong is one of those guys that's at the age where it's hard to say whether he hasn't reached his potential or if he's just not that good. There's positives we've seen from him, but also some major weaknesses that never seem to have gotten any better. Last year really should have been the year he put it all together, but he just never did. He's a solid run defender. He never really put up gaudy tackle stats, but he did a good job shooting gaps, blowing up the FB and paving the way for someone else to make a tackle. He did the things against the run that don't show up on the stat sheet. Overall, he's a pretty good in the box defender. If he does have a weakness against the run he can sometimes struggle shedding blocks to the outside and doesn't have great speed.
He's a truly awful coverage player. Part of that can certainly be attributed to the fact that he never covered anyone until he got to the pros, but the fact is that he's a complete liability when out in coverage. There really isn't much more to add to this, he's just bad at it.
So, do we have interest? I think Jackson and Roth are worth a look.