Andrew Berry and the Cleveland Browns have been busy tinkering with their roster this week.
But their latest move is a little anti-climactic.
Cleveland created a roster spot by waiving edge rusher Joe Jackson on Thursday.
We have signed LB Elijah Lee to the active roster.
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) October 8, 2021
That led to some speculation about how they would fill that spot, especially after posting a lengthy injury report.
But recently released linebacker, Elijah Lee, is the player to backfill Jackson’s place on the roster.
Cleveland just canceled Lee’s contract and added him to their roster spot earlier this week.
#Browns LB Elijah Lee played last Sunday, then was waived, re-signed to the practice squad, and elevated back to the 53 man all within a few days.
— MoreForYouCleveland (@MoreForYou_CLE) October 8, 2021
And it will not surprise many if Jackson ends up taking Lee’s spot on the PR after clearing waivers.
The Browns could have elevated Lee from the practice squad for game day.
But now the special teams and backup linebacker role he covered in the first four weeks is assured for Week 5.
Why Make This Roster Move?
On the surface, the shuffling of Elijah Lee and Joe Jackson looks as simple as changing their minds.
But why would they change their minds?
Cleveland opened the door for Anthony Walker to return from the IR as they announced Lee’s release.
It was assumed to be a simple roster move to accommodate the addition of Walker.
— Daryl Ruiter (@RuiterWrongFAN) October 8, 2021
Lee played about 25% of the defensive snaps over the past three weeks that Walker missed.
But he is a bigger contributor on special teams, contributing to all coverage and return teams.
That contribution might have simply made Lee more valuable than Jackson after the addition of Ifeadi Obenigbo.
But it is also possible Malcolm Smith‘s abdomen injury or Walker’s hamstring warrants more linebacker depth.
What It Means For Sunday
Elijah Lee played in 8 games for Cleveland last season, mostly in special teams.
But he had a visible preseason for all the right reasons on defense, as well.
His 6 tackles aren’t much, but it already matches the total he put up in 2020.
And that was good enough to make him a rare re-signed defensive player in 2021.
Malcolm Smith, Mack Wilson, Sione Takitaki, and Elijah Lee with your t4 @PFF grades defensively. #Browns won a game by 10 where JJII (42.4), Denzel Ward (45.4), and Troy Hill (48.3) performed metrically poor.
Demetric Felton with a 98.7 grade in 3 offensive snaps LOL.
— Jake Burns (@jake_burns18) September 20, 2021
Lee graded out as an average last year at a position regarded as the weakest on the Browns.
But his PFF scores have improved quite a bit in his limited role since Walker went down.
Always a solid tackler, PFF has not charged Lee with a missed tackle on special teams or defense.
And he is another veteran to provide support to the Browns’ young defense.