In their customary Sunday morning “Hey, Tony!” and “Hey, Mary Kay!” columns, Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland and Mary Kay Cabot of the Plain Dealer give some insight from a pressing issue for Browns’ fans, just who is going to start at free safety opposite T.J. Ward in the secondary.
Hey Tony: One of the more intriguing reports – in my opinion – that I’ve heard coming out of OTAs is that Chudzinski and Horton are giving Johnson Bademosi a look at the free safety spot. He’s certainly got the motor to cause some disruption in the secondary, and as a corner by trade his coverage skills should be respectable. Do you think there’s a realistic chance that Bademosi could make noteworthy contributions at free safety in 2013, or am I just desperately searching for a diamond in the rough?
— Josh, Bethesda, MD
Hey Josh: Bademosi’s physical traits and work and study habits are intriguing to the new coaches. I am planning an update on Bademosi very soon. He is being given an opportunity to challenge Tashaun Gipson at free safety and could work his way into much more playing time on defense.
Hey, Mary Kay: The Browns have done basically nothing to address the safety position except draft somebody in the sixth round. Is this not a concern? — Angelo Costanzo, Cleveland
Hey, Angelo: Second-year defensive back Tashaun Gipson has the early lead on the starting free safety job, and sixth-round pick Jamoris Slaughter (Achilles) will be worked into the mix when he gets healthy. The Browns are working second-year DB Johnson Bademosi at safety instead of cornerback this year.
Hey, Mary Kay: Do think the release of Eric Hagg points to the Browns signing Kerry Rhodes? Or do they believe Johnson Bademosi can transition to safety to provide depth behind Tashaun Gipson? — Matt Douglass, Lima, Ohio
Hey, Matt: The Browns have had months to sign Kerry Rhodes and haven’t done so; it’s probably not in the cards. I do think they believe Bademosi can serve as a backup to Gipson. They like his size (6-0, 200) and the big hitting ability he’s shown on special teams.
With Eric Hagg and Usama Young being released this offseason, it was believed that the Browns may try to address the free safety position via free agency. As mentioned above, given the new defensive coordinator Ray Horton connection, Kerry Rhodes was a frequently dropped name. Rhodes will be 31 by the start of next season. Last season, he totaled 67 tackles, 1 sack, 2 forced fumbles, 4 interceptions, and 11 passes defended in 15 games.
Gipson played as mostly a reserve safety last season, starting 3 games out of the 10 in which he played, amassing 33 tackles, 1 pass defended, and 1 interception. Bademosi played some spot duty at corner due to injuries at the end of the season but was primarily a star special teams contributor for all 16 games, accounting for 20 tackles and defending 1 pass. Jamoris Slaughter, the team’s sixth round selection last month in the draft, will also compete if he is recovered from his Achilles injury.