The Browns must like the way some of their young linebackers fit into new coach Mike Pettine’s 3-4, hybrid scheme because they have cut veterans Quentin Groves and Larry Grant, both of whom have six NFL seasons on their resumes. The team announced the moves this morning.
Groves earned a spot in the defense’s rotation of outside linebackers last season, but an injured ankle limited him to only five games. Former Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton spent the 2012 season with Groves when they were members of the Arizona Cardinals. The Browns then signed Groves, who was an unrestricted free agent, to a two-year, $2.8 million contract in March 2013 partly because they knew he would help his new teammates learn Horton’s scheme.
Groves, 29, earned respect in the locker room and was voted special teams captain despite being arrested a month after his arrival on a charge of soliciting an undercover police officer for prostitution.
The 6-foot-3, 265-pound Groves finished his shortened 2013 season with four tackles, including two sacks, and one forced fumble.
He suffered a high left ankle sprain against the Baltimore Ravens Sept. 15. He missed the next three games but returned Oct. 20 only to aggravate the ankle against the Green Bay Packers. The Browns placed him on injured reserve Nov. 11 and he underwent surgery shortly after, but Groves bounced back from the injury this offseason and practiced throughout the spring.
Outside linebackers Jabaal Sheard, Paul Kruger and Barkevious Mingo are locks to receive significant playing time like they did last season. Sheard and Kruger were the starters. Mingo, the sixth overall pick in last year's draft, and Groves served as backups who rotated into the lineup.
Now Justin Staples, 24, and Eric Martin, 22, are the only other outside linebackers on the roster. One of them could have a chance to take Groves’ place by joining the rotation of Sheard, Kruger and Mingo.
An Ohio State product, the 6-1, 251-pound Grant signed with the Browns two weeks ago and figured to compete for a job as a backup inside linebacker and special teams contributor. Grant, 29, served a four-game suspension last season for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. He then appeared in two games with the Bears before they waived him in November.
Karlos Dansby is a lock to start at inside linebacker. Rookie Christian Kirksey, a third-round draft pick, and Craig Robertson will compete to start next to Dansby.
Tank Carder, 25, Zac Diles, 28, Darius Eubanks, 22, and Brandon Magee, 23, will compete for the remaining roster spots at inside linebacker.