While on the surface that seems like a lot to lose, the Browns might not be in as dire a situation as you think. Yes, the Browns will miss Miller's leadership on and off the field, but with a different face at strongside linebacker, the Browns have an opportunity to make the defense faster, more athletic, and possibly even more productive.
When asked Saturday night if Miller's replacement was already on the Browns roster, coach Butch Davis said, "He has to be. I don't know of any draft next week."
As it turns out, the Browns did not need anything as dramatic as another draft to find a new strongside linebacker. The likely replacement for Miller is former Dallas and Carolina linebacker Darren Hambrick, who signed a free-agent contract with the Browns Sunday afternoon.
Hambrick comes to Cleveland with a reputation as an athletic playmaker who led the Cowboys in tackles in 2000. He also carries an unfortunate reputation as a malcontent.
Despite posting big numbers and beating out every challenger for his starting position the Cowboys could throw at him, Hambrick wore out his welcome in Dallas after an ugly contract dispute.
Hambrick was released along with cornerback Kareem Larrimore Oct. 23, 2001. According to Hambrick, it was a vindictive move by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
After his third year, Hambrick thought he would cash in on his 154-tackle season with a multi million dollar contract prior to 2001. When it came time to tender a contract to the restricted free agent, Jones offered a one-year deal worth just $512,000. Hambrick called the offer an insult and chose to hold out, missing a four-day quarterback school.
When he failed to generate interest from other teams, Hambrick considered retiring over signing the offer sheet. He finally decided to sign for $512,000 before the Cowboys lowered the offer to $418,000, but attended just one of two subsequent minicamps. Hambrick was demoted to the second team behind fourth-round draft choice Marcus Steele. He eventually won back his starting job, but was released five games into the season.
"It was a shock," said Hambrick. "I was a Pro Bowl candidate after a good year in 2000. I was expecting to come out on top and be a Pro Bowl player in 2001. I got off to a good start with (10) tackles against Tampa Bay ... Then all of a sudden I get released."
Hambrick said he had no doubt who was behind the move.
"Jerry cut me," said Hambrick. "I don't think (coach Dave) Campo would cut me."
In fact, Campo typically came to Hambrick's defense whenever he was in the middle of controversy. And that happened a lot.
"Darren has been through a lot of adversity since he's been here, and he's always fought through it," Campo told the Associated Press in May of 2001.
In 1999, Hambrick was charged with fleeing a law enforcement officer and resisting an officer without violence after being pulled over for speeding in his home town of Lacoochee, Fla.
A year later, Hambrick picked a fight with LaVar Arrington and Chris Samuels, igniting a brawl before a Monday night game with the Redskins. He later said former Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin "inspired me to do it."
Hambrick had been in trouble for fighting before. After his sophomore year at the University of Florida, Hambrick and teammate Anthony Riggins were kicked off the team by coach Steve Spurrier for fighting at a team dinner prior to the Gators' 1995 Sugar Bowl loss to Florida State. He ended his college career at the University of South Carolina.
According to Hambrick, all of those off-field problems led to Jones "calling me a cancer in the locker room."
"I do a lot of good things that you never hear anybody talk about," said Hambrick. "I've only been in trouble two times in my life. Once when I got kicked off the team in Florida, and once in my rookie year for fleeing after a (traffic violation). Now I'm a bad guy. I'm a menace to the team."
That bad reputation continues to follow Hambrick. It is one of the reasons the Cowboys felt the need to bring in Quentin Coryatt, Joe Bowden and Steele in successive seasons to challenge for his starting job.
Hambrick finished last season in Carolina, but was deemed expandable when the Panthers signed Mark Fields. Hambrick spent the entire offseason looking for a new home and finding little interest from NFL teams. He claimed he was blackballed by Jones.
"Whatever Jerry Jones said, he must have said it to the other owners and teams, because they didn't want to touch me," said Hambrick.
The Browns even shied away from Hambrick when he visited Berea in late March.
A source within the Browns organization said the team kept Hambrick on the top of the their emergency linebacker list.
While Anthony Denman is listed No. 1 at strongside linebacker on the Browns current depth chart, the team gave Hambrick a callback with the idea of his eventually taking over as the starter.
According to the source in the organization, Hambrick can bring more speed and athleticism to the position than Miller had, allowing the Browns to play a more traditional 4-3 scheme.
Hambrick has ties to the Cleveland professional sports scene. His uncle is former Indians pitcher Jim "Mudcat" Grant.