The Cleveland Browns sent a message to the AFC North by handling the Pittsburgh Steelers Thursday night, but the win came at a high price.

Linebacker and defensive captain Anthony Walker Jr. was lost for the season after he sustained a torn quad tendon and team doctors carted him off the field. The status of second-year standout Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah remains up in the air, as he was scheduled for an MRI Friday to determine the extent of a groin injury.

The silver lining is that the Browns don’t take the field again until October, with 10 days off between games following a short week. Cleveland will need to spend some of that time combing through the free agent market for answers on how to supplement the position group, as starting linebackers are dropping right and left.

Among the smoothest and most logical solutions would involve Cleveland pursuing a familiar face in ex-Browns LB Joe Schobert.

Schobert Was Consistent, Productive For Browns Over 4-Year Tenure

Joe Schobert Packers Free Agency

GettyLinebacker Joe Schobert, formerly of the Cleveland Browns, walks off the field with the ball after his second interception of the game against the Miami Dolphins at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 24, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio.

Cleveland selected Schobert in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL draft. He produced moderate output his rookie season, starting in four games but appearing in all 16. But by his second year, the linebacker had already make his mark on the NFL.

Schobert, now 28 years old, became a full-time starter and led the league in tackles with 144 that season, earning his sole trip to the Pro Bowl. Over a three-year period from 2017-19, Schobert started 45 games for the Browns, missing only three due to injury.

The linebacker left Cleveland the following season for the Jacksonville Jaguars, where his steady production continued. Schobert played last season with the Steelers and caught on with the Denver Broncos for a brief time in August before being released. He is currently a free agent.

Should the Browns decide to pursue Schobert, they may be best served to do so sooner than later, as he worked out for the New York Giants earlier this week. For his career, Schobert has amassed 661 tackles, including 23 tackles for loss, 30 passes defensed, 26 quarterback hits, 11 sacks, 10 interceptions, 10 forced fumbles and one defensive touchdown, per Pro Football Reference.

Browns Have Free Agent Options at Linebacker Outside of Schobert

Blake Martinez, Giants

GettyBlake Martinez, formerly of the New York Giants, reacts after a turnover against the Denver Broncos during a game at MetLife Stadium on September 12, 2021 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)

Should Cleveland prove unable to bring Schobert back into the fold, there are a handful of other viable options also available in free agency. Perhaps chief among them is former Giants defensive captain Blake Martinez.

Martinez, 28, was a highly durable starter for the first five years of his career, the first four of which came as a member of the Green Bay Packers. Between 2017-20, the linebacker started 64 of a possible 64 games. In 2021, he was named a team captain in New York before suffering a season-ending ACL tear in Week 3.

The Giants brought Martinez back in 2022, naming him as a member of the initial 53-man roster before releasing him on September 1 in a move that saved the team approximately $6 million in salary cap space.

Martinez, like Schobert, is actively visiting with NFL teams. His most recent tryout came with the Las Vegas Raiders on Thursday.

Linebackers Anthony Hitchens and Jarrad Davis also remained free agents as of Friday, September 23.

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