CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns are bringing back linebacker Sione Takitaki after his solid 2022 season was ended early by a knee injury, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Takitaki is getting a one-year, $2.5 million deal, said the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because teams are not allowed to announce signings until the official start of the league year on Wednesday.
The 27-year-old Takitaki stepped up big last season after the Browns lost several linebackers to injuries. He started eight games and finished with 71 tackles before sustaining a torn anterior cruciate ligament against Houston on Dec. 4.
Takitaki underwent surgery and the Browns are expecting him to be healthy and back in time for the start of next season. The well-liked Takitaki also emerged as a needed leader for Cleveland's defense.
After playing at BYU, Takitaki was drafted by the Browns in the third round in 2019. He's started 29 games and made 203 tackles. The 6-foot-1, 235-pounder returned an interception for a touchdown in 2020.
Cleveland has prioritized its defense so far in free agency by reaching agreements with defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson (four years, $57 million) and Ogbo Okoronkwo (three years, $19 million), according to the person with direct knowledge of the team's plans.
The Browns are also re-signing center Ethan Polic, who moved into the starting lineup when Nick Harris sustained a season-ending injury in August and anchored Cleveland's offensive line.
Before free agency opened, the Browns restructured quarterback Deshaun Watson's contract to clear $36 million under the salary cap.