Kentucky middle linebacker Avery Williamson
Weight: 246 pounds.
Why the Browns might target him: Inside linebacker could ascend the team’s list of needs if defensive captain D’Qwell Jackson’s contract situation leads to his departure this offseason. Jackson, 30, would carry a $9.43 million salary-cap figure next season, which includes a $4.1 million roster bonus due in March. In December, Jackson indicated he would be open to a restructured deal and said he would be “absolutely” shocked if he didn’t return to the Browns. The other starting inside linebacker, Craig Robertson, 26, is an exclusive-rights free agent and can only hit the open market if the Browns don’t extend him an offer. Either way, Robertson struggled in coverage last season, so the Browns might seek help at the position. If they do, Williamson could be a target because his speed would appeal to new coach Mike Pettine. When asked at the NFL Scouting Combine whether the defense needs more speed, Pettine specifically pointed to the linebackers. “To me, it is a size and speed league for sure,” Pettine said. “Given the nature of spread offenses, I’ve always been one I’d rather have smaller guys that are faster. Sometimes the best place where that shows up is usually with your linebacker corps. You look for run-and-hit guys who can go sideline to sideline. We’ve proven, too, that you can win with any type, but given the nature of offenses and what’s coming from college, the evolution of the spread, I think you need to emphasize speed over size.” Williamson tied for sixth among all linebackers Monday at the combine with an official time of 4.66 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Only one player listed as an inside linebacker, Florida State’s Telvin Smith, posted a better time (4.52 seconds), and NFLDraftScout.com analyst Rob Rang believes Smith will likely be moved to outside linebacker or even safety in the NFL because he’s 6-3 and weighs only 218 pounds. NFLDraftScout.com projects Williamson as a seventh-round pick, though his stock could rise after the combine.
— Nate Ulrich