Is 27 Now The New 30 In Cleveland?
By Steven King
In Cleveland, 27 is the new 30.
The number of Cleveland Browns players over the age of 30 on the roster at this very moment is about as scarce as beachgoers on Lake Erie at this time of year.
The new management regime of CEO Joe Banner, GM Mike Lombardi, assistant GM Ray Farmer and coach Rob Chudzinski have put almost all of the team’s oldest players on a slow boat to anywhere but Cleveland. The Browns have made it clear they don’t want them around anymore as they continue to infuse the roster with younger players.
The oldest player on the team – and the best on these new Browns since they returned to the field in 1999 – was 38-year-old K Phil Dawson, who was allowed to sign with the San Francisco 49ers on Tuesday. Another Browns star, WR/KR Joshua Cribbs, also will not return.
For the purpose of this article, because of the scarcity of players over 30, we’re going to list – in no particular order -- the top five Browns players age 27 and older:
LT Joe Thomas (28) – He is the best player at his position in the NFL, but it goes beyond that. The Browns have 16 members – 15 players and a coach in Paul Brown – in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Barring the unforseen, he will eventually become No. 17. The third overall choice in the 2007 NFL Draft, he has made the Pro Bowl in each of his six seasons and shows absolutely no signs of slowing down. Whomever the Browns finally decide on as their long-term answer at quarterback will have the comfort of knowing he has Thomas protecting his blind side.
C Alex Mack (27) – Among the best at his position in the league, he teams with Thomas and second-year RT Mitchell Schwartz to give the Browns three very good players along the offensive line. He is not just good, but also tough (he has started all 64 games in his four-year career) and smart (he makes all the blocking calls). The Browns want to keep him for the remainder of his career at all costs.
ILB D’Qwell Jackson (29) – We’re putting the heart and soul of the Browns’ defense in the top five at this point, but it remains to be seen if he’ll still be there by the end of the season. If he’s not, it won’t be because of a slippage in his play, but rather the fact the Browns are going to a 3-4 defensive scheme. That means Jackson will move to inside linebacker after having played in the middle of the 4-3 over the last two seasons. However, at just 6-0 and 240 pounds, will he be able to handle all the big blockers on offense who will now likely have a much clearer path to lock onto him? We’ll see.
OLB Paul Kruger (27) – The Browns’ new $40 million man is the plum of their free-agent signings and should give the club the good outside pass rusher so necessary for success in the 3-4. He seemed to be coming into his own last season as the Baltimore Ravens made their run to the Super Bowl and now he will be counted on to have a much more significant role with the Browns.
DE Desmond Bryant (27) – The second-biggest free agent haul by the Browns this off-season, he should also help Cleveland get after the quarterback. At 6-6 and 311 pounds, the former Oakland Raider looks more like an athletic power forward in basketball and should be entering his prime.