When he was drafted #6 overall, Barkevious Mingo was supposed to be the answer to the Cleveland Browns need for a great outside pass rusher. A long, lean defensive end from LSU, Mingo's frame and athleticism seemed like a perfect fit at the outside linebacker position in the 3-4 defense.
In his rookie season, Mingo showed flashes of what Browns fans were hoping. Five sacks, four passes defended and 4 tackles for loss in 15 games was a good tease under Defensive Coordinator Ray Horton.
Since then, like most Cleveland Browns Organization decisions and draft picks, Mingo has fallen off. He has totaled two sacks since with 1 fumble recovery and 1 interception.
Not surprisingly, the Browns declined the 5th year option on Mingo's rookie contract, making the 2016 season Mingo's contract year. It made no sense for the Browns to pay the estimated $12 million it would have cost to keep Mingo next season.
That puts Mingo and the Browns in a dilemma. Mingo has his rookie year coordinator back in Horton, still has a ton of upside and is still in a defense that should be a perfect fit for him. The Browns have also not solved their OLB position with veteran Paul Kruger joined by youngsters Nate Orchard and Emmanuel Ogbah.
On the other hand, Mingo has shown very little on the field to validate the Browns giving him playing time over the youngsters. In fact, his status as a soon to be free agent could lead the Browns to minimizing even his practice reps.
In one of his Premium Musings, Brent Soboleski noted something interesting about how the rest of the league sees Mingo:
Despite Mingo’s lackluster play through the first three seasons, teams are hoping the Browns don’t retain him beyond this year. There are coaches around the league who still love his talent and believe he’s been used incorrectly since putting on a Browns uniform.
The fear for many Browns fans is that Mingo leaves and shows more talent on another team. We had that experience last year as Jabaal Sheard looked great in his first year with the New England Patriots.
As the Browns new Front Office and coaching staff takes a look at Mingo they can look at a few possible outcomes:
- Play Mingo, Mingo Plays Well - The Browns could invest time in Mingo and it could pay off. Instead of letting the youngsters take over early, the Browns could see Mingo show signs of his rookie season under Horton. A double digit sack year would make things tough for the Browns. Will they pay him big pass rusher money after only one year? Can they risk the fan and player backlash for letting another young player walk?
- Play Mingo Early, Youngsters Later - Giving the young veteran the first chance to make an impact makes a ton of sense. The Browns don't want to let their young guys, especially the high drafted ones, feel a sense of entitlement. Starting Mingo early then transitioning to the young guys, if Mingo continues his career arc, is the best of both worlds for the team.
- Let Mingo Hang Around for 2016 - Having a gifted athlete to push the young guys is never a bad thing. The Browns could just let Mingo hang around for the season until he is needed. Maybe he gets snaps on Special Teams. Maybe Hue Jackson uses him to prove a point to the young guys. Either way, giving Mingo limited opportunities ensures he leaves for greener grasses next season.
- Trade Mingo after Highlighting him in Pre-Season - The new Browns Front Office clearly values efficient use of talent. Putting Mingo in a place to succeed in Pre-Season, and maybe even early in the Regular Season, before dealing the soon to be free agent, is a great use of talent. The Browns could get a conditional pick of some kind that would increase depending on Mingo's impact on the team acquiring him.
- Cut Mingo - Based on what we are hearing, it is unlikely the Browns will go this route. They seem to want to give Mingo, and Justin Gilbert, a chance to earn their spot. If, however, Mingo struggles after adding weight, cutting him and his over $5 million contract wouldn't be overly shocking. The Browns did this with big Phil Taylor.
Barkevious Mingo can be a free agent next year, is back with his defensive coordinator from his best season and still has loads of talent that led to him being the #6 overall pick. The Browns have drafted two young guys in the 2nd Round over the last two years on players at his position, would have to worry about paying a big contract off one good year and have a long term future to think about.
The Browns have a Mingo Dilemma.
What do you think this season will look like for Mingo and the Browns?