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For the Cleveland Browns, this was basically a tie between safety Damarious Randall and linebacker Joe Schobert, both of whom are integral members of the defense.
In 26 starts at safety, Randall has four interceptions, 2.5 sacks, 146 tackles and 15 passes defensed. The 2015 first-round pick of the Packers might never become a Pro Bowl-caliber player, but he’s a solid starter who at least has a Pro Bowl-level ceiling at the age of 27.
Considering that 31-year-old Morgan Burnett is battling back from a torn Achilles, a Browns team that traded away Jabrill Peppers last offseason can’t let Randall leave as a free agent in March. He’s the only established, healthy safety remaining on the roster, and the talented Browns are in win-now mode.
But they do have plenty of salary-cap space, and they could replace Randall with an even better impending free agent like Justin Simmons of the Denver Broncos.
Replacing Schobert could be tougher. He’s arguably the heart and soul of the defense, and at 26, he’s slightly younger than Randall. The 2017 Pro Bowler is coming off a four-pick, 133-tackle season, and he’s missed just three games since becoming a starter in 2017.
There also isn’t an off-ball linebacker on track to hit free agency who is as good as Schobert, and the Browns have practically no other experience at the position.