Prior to the start of the 2023 season, the Cleveland Browns made several big moves to boost their defense.
In addition to key coaching changes, which included hiring Jim Schwartz as their defensive coordinator, the Browns also brought in some fresh faces in terms of players.
One of their biggest moves was making a trade to acquire three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Za’Darius Smith.
As with Jadaveon Clowney before him, Smith was a big name who was expected to come in and become the best one-two pass-rushing punch in the NFL alongside Myles Garrett.
Unfortunately, the stats didn’t seem to back up that hope, as Smith totaled just 27 tackles and 5.5 sacks to go along with a single forced fumble.
As such, trading for him has been called one of the worst moves in 2023 by NFL Rumors on Twitter.
However, according to Cody Suek, also on Twitter, that claim couldn’t be more wrong.
Za’Darius Smith finished top-10 at the position in both pass-rush grade (86.8) and pass-rush win rate (18.1%).
Spare me. https://t.co/TWfAZ8Hpkg
— Cody Suek (@CodySuek) January 27, 2024
The reason many people were unhappy with Smith’s performance this year is that he had been averaging just over 12 sacks per game over his last three full seasons.
While he didn’t have the sack numbers this year, he was certainly pressuring opposing quarterbacks and affecting the game.
Additionally, let’s consider what the Browns traded to acquire Smith, along with a 2025 sixth-round draft pick.
All they gave up was two fifth-round draft picks, one in 2024 and one in 2025.
Granted, it was for a one-year commitment from Smith, but with how he played this year and his known potential, the Browns are sure to do whatever they can to keep Smith on the roster for next year.