Whither Chaun Thompson?

With the Browns looking at new blood for their front seven, will there be a place for Chaun? The OBR reports exclusively on Thompson's status with the Browns as a free agent and looks at what Thompson can still bring to the Browns or another team...

With the Browns looking for new blood in their front seven, an Browns veteran at the position may be close to leaving. The OBR has reported exclusively over the last couple of days that LB Chaun Thompsion is still in contact with the team about returning to Cleveland, but has also attracted the attention of the Seattle Seahawks.

As he makes a decision whether or not to continue his career in Cleveland, Thompson remains a fuzzy picture of physical potential and frustrating progress.

Admittedly, Chaun Thompson has never fulfilled the promise scouts saw when he was selected in the second round of the 2003 draft by the Cleveland Browns  off of a winless West Texas A&M squad.

Thompson was a selection of former Cleveland head coach Butch Davis, who acknowledged at that time that Thompson would need time to develop, due to the youngster's lack of top-level competition and experience. This option quickly became moot, as Davis resigned late in the 2004 season and Romeo Crennel was hired to coach the team in 2005.

What Crennel encountered was a raw, athletic player that did not have a real grasp of his responsibility as an outside linebacker. Thompson's experience at the low collegiate level subjected added to significant challenges that any linebacker faces when moving to the professional level.  

During his five seasons in the league, Thompson has been a player without a position, although he developed into a team leader on special teams. Outside linebacker in a 4-3, inside linebacker in the 3-4, outside linebacker in the 3-4... Thompson has been moved between schemes and within schemes.

As the team sought talent to fill the roles in the Crennel 3-4 defense, Thompson remained a 'project', a label which he has carried throughout his career.

Thompson found himself with another uphill climb entering the 2006 season. Cleveland selected pass rushing linebacker Kamerion Wimbley in the first round of the draft and signed long-time Crennel favorite, Willie McGinest, to man the starting outside linebacker roles, pushing Thompson down the depth chart.

When provided the opportunity to play, Thompson has filled various roles. Starting as an outside linebacker, Thompson has been the type of athlete that could make a tremendous play and then immediately follow up by missing the next couple assignments. During the 2005 season (Crennel's first in Cleveland - without many options at the position), Thompson received playing time and was effective as a pass rusher coming off the edge, but was far too often out of position and a significant liability against the run.

Over the past two seasons, Thompson has been bounced between the inside and outside linebacker positions, which is a testament to his athletic ability. Relying on excellent quickness, Thompson can turn the corner and possesses the strength to fight off blocks. Thompson has been an aggressive player during his five-seasons in Cleveland and has displayed disruptive on-field qualities on occasion. While Thompson's run defensive skill-set is questionable at best, he is somewhat better dropping into coverage due to his quickness.

A commitment to playing time and a definitive role in a scheme where Thompson can utilize his athletic ability may be all this linebacker needs to become more than "depth" now that he can no longer be considered a project. The jury is out on Thompson, but the flashes of brilliance he has displayed in limited playing time as well as his exceptional special teams play makes him an attractive player for a team seeking such, with the potential of finding a diamond in the rough.

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