Monday, June 4, 2012

Why not Matt Roth?

Scanned the list of remaining free agents in the National Football League and one name jumped off the screen: Matt Roth.

Yes, that Matt Roth. The same guy who played for the Browns in 2009 and 2010. The same guy who had 7½ sacks for the Browns in 22 games.

Remember him? He’s the outside linebacker who gave the Browns a semblance of a pass rush in those 22 games. And what could the Browns use on defense now? That’s right – a strong pass rush.

Wouldn’t he look good in a Browns uniform? You bet he would. At 6-4, 275 pounds and in the prime of his career, he’d look great opposite Jabaal Sheard at defensive end. He’s still pretty quick and very strong.

Only one problem. Apparently, the big guy from the University of Iowa doesn’t like playing defensive end. That’s why he left the Browns and signed as a free agent with Jacksonville last season after Cleveland switched to a 4-3 alignment on defense.

Something about playing outside linebacker makes Roth happier than lining up as a defensive end. Not quite sure what that is because he’s a terrific pass rusher, an essential quality the Browns lack in a division with some pretty good quarterbacks.

Roth was drafted by Miami as a defensive end before the Dolphins eventually switched to a 3-4 and moved him to outside linebacker, a position he played in high school and for his first season at Iowa.

When the Hawkeyes moved him to defensive end in his sophomore season, he became a fixture, gaining All Big 10 honors as a junior. In his final three seasons, he compiled 30 sacks and 52 tackles for loss before becoming a second-round draft pick in 2005.

He arrived in Cleveland with just six games left in the 2009 season after the Browns snagged him off the waiver wire less than 24 hours after the Dolphins cut him loose. At the time, the Browns were 1-9 in Eric Mangini’s first season. They lost their next two games before finishing the season with a four-victory flourish.

Roth was immediately plugged in at outside linebacker. In the 10 games the Browns played before his arrival, they had 19 sacks. In the final six, they registered 21, including an eight-sack pounding of Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in game 13.

Coincidence? Don’t think so. Roth brought a dimension to the Browns’ defense that had been missing all season. He dropped opposing quarterbacks four times in those six games, but his presence allowed for others to cash in.

At some time, Roth has got to realize jobs in the NFL are not easy to come by even though he’s a proven seven-year veteran. He might not like playing defensive end, but he soon will realize it might be the only option he has if he wants to continue his career.

And the team that could maximize his talent best? That’s easy. The one he left a year ago. 

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