The Cleveland Browns are really excited about Sione Takitaki and they should be. The third round pick out of BYU had an incredibly productive year at EDGE as a junior and then another one as an off ball linebacker as a senior in addition to the fact he's an excellent athlete.
It seems like Takitaki will be the team's SAM linebacker as a rookie with some package plays, perhaps rushing the passer or just coming in for his power in short yardage. If Takitaki progresses the way the Browns hope, they may view him as the team's MIKE linebacker as soon as 2020.
Naturally, that begs the question of what happens to Joe Schobert, who has been great for the Browns the past two seasons and is in a contract year. My hope is the Browns extend Schobert to then move him to WILL linebacker.
Schobert is great in space and is one of the best coverage linebackers in the league. This move would allow him to do more of that while still being able to make plays behind the line of scrimmage as a blitzer and against the run, areas he's become known for.
His skill set is an ideal fit for the Browns who appear poised to score a lot of points and a defense that is increasingly focused on stopping the pass. Schobert has shown to be a closer, such as in the Jets game where he was able to make multiple plays on the ball when the Jets tried to come back on their final few drives of the game.
Where does this leave Chris Kirksey, the team's current WILL linebacker? I think he will have a good season this year. He's been waiting for the opportunity to be on a competitive team his entire career and he more than deserves it.
But because of his contract and the overall vision of the team, they will move on from him after this season. MAYBE there's a way to restructure and keep him, but he'd likely be a backup and the Browns attitude is not to pay depth. It would be difficult to see Kirksey go because he has been an outstanding representation of the Browns organization both on and off the field. The price of being good is difficult choices and this would definitely qualify.
If Takitaki can deliver and become a good MIKE linebacker and the Browns can extend Schobert to play WILL, they would have a potent duo at the linebacker position with only one premium contract, which is a really good setup.
The Browns would be set up to have much of their defensive line, linebackers and at least their corners in the fold for several seasons as they attempt to make a run at the Super Bowl. They might have to replace a piece here or there, but that continuity on that side of the ball could pay massive dividends in their quest for a championship.