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Cleveland Browns' 2023 free agency: 5 potential defensive end targets

The Cleveland Browns figure to prioritize the defensive end position in free agency this offseason.

CLEVELAND — Monday, March 13 marks the start of the legal tampering period in the NFL, in which teams are permitted to negotiate with players ahead of the official start of free agency.

With the Cleveland Browns likely to be active in the defensive end market, here's a look at five players at the position they could target in the week ahead.

Marcus Davenport, New Orleans Saints

A first-round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, Marcus Davenport has amassed 21.5 sacks throughout the first five seasons of his NFL career, despite battling injuries that have limited him to appearing in 62 of a possible 82 games. While he only tallied a half-sack in 14 games last season, his underlying metrics remain strong and he's considered by many -- including Pro Football Focus -- to be the top defensive end in this year's class.

As such, signing the 26-year-old University of Texas San Antonio product likely won't be cheap, as Spotrac projects him to receive a four-year, $93 million contract. That could prove too pricey for the Browns, especially considering Davenport's injury history. But if Cleveland is looking to make a splash, it could do worse than finding a long-term pass-rush partner to pair opposite Myles Garrett.

Yannick Ngakoue, Indianapolis Colts

One of the most accomplished pass-rushers in this year's class, Yannick Ngakoue has tallied 65 sacks over the course of his seven-year NFL career and has totaled at least eight sacks in each year. Despite having now played for five different teams in the past four seasons, the Maryland product has remained plenty productive, recording 9.5 sacks in 15 games with the Indianapolis Colts in 2022.

Pairing a pass-rusher as productive as Ngakoue opposite Garrett would force opposing offenses to pick their poison. As for his price, Spotrac projects the 27-year-old Maryland product's market value to be a four-year, $59.24 million contract.

Frank Clark, Kansas City Chiefs

Shortly after winning their second Super Bowl in four years, the Kansas City Chiefs released defensive end Frank Clark, who had served as an anchor of their defense for the past four seasons. A product of Cleveland Glenville High School, Clark ranks third all-time in postseason sacks with 13.5.

While he's older (29) than the free agents the Browns' front office has typically targeted, the Michigan product makes for an intriguing fit opposite Garrett and is just one year removed from three consecutive Pro Bowl selections. Whether or not a Cleveland homecoming is in the cards for Clark will likely come down to his price, with Spotrac projecting his market value to be a two-year, $24.8 million contract.

Arden Key, Jacksonville Jaguars

After an underwhelming start to his career with the Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders, Arden Key has put together back-to-back solid seasons with the San Francisco 49ers (2021) and Jacksonville Jaguars (2022).

Now, after signing back-to-back one-year contracts, the LSU product will likely look to cash in, with Spotrac projecting his market value at a two-year, $22.7 million contract. A deal of that nature could be appealing to the Browns, who could utilize the 26-year-old Key's versatility in new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz's wide-nine scheme.

Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Houston Texans

After three largely unforgettable seasons with the Los Angeles Rams, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo enjoyed the best year of his career with the Houston Texans in 2022, tallying five sacks and 11 QB hits. The underlying metrics for the Oklahoma product were even stronger, with his 88.5 Pro Football Focus pass-rushing grade after Week 7 ranking as the sixth-best mark among edge defenders.

While it's unclear how much he'll be able to cash in on his second-half hot streak, there's reason to believe the 27-year-old's best football might still be ahead of him. Considering the success he found last season in Houston, there's no reason to think that he wouldn't be able to take advantage of the attention that Garrett commands from opposing offenses.

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