CLEVELAND (AP) — Sione Takitaki didn’t get to finish his best season with the Browns. He’ll get another chance to better it.
Takitaki, who sustained a season-ending knee injury after filling a vital role for Cleveland in 2022, agreed Tuesday to re-sign with the Browns, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press.
Takitaki is getting a one-year, $2.5 million deal, said the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because teams are not allowed to announce signings until the official start of the league year on Wednesday.
Takitaki’s return was the Browns’ only move on the second day of free agency. On Monday, the team addressed some defensive needs following a 7-10 season that included a spate of injuries across the team’s linebacking corps.
Following season-ending injuries to starters Anthony Walker Jr. and Jacob Phillips, the 27-year-old Takitaki stepped up and gave the Browns a major lift. He started eight games and finished with 71 tackles before sustaining a torn anterior cruciate ligament against Houston on Dec. 4.
Takitaki underwent surgery and the Browns are expecting him to be healthy and back in time for the start of next season. The well-liked Takitaki also emerged as a needed leader for Cleveland’s defense.
“Tak is one of my favorites,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said following Takitakis’ injury. “Plays very, very physically. Loves this game. Plays hard. A great teammate.”
After playing at BYU, Takitaki was drafted by the Browns in the third round in 2019. He’s started 29 games and made 203 tackles. The 6-foot-1, 235-pounder returned an interception for a touchdown in 2020.
Cleveland has prioritized its defense so far in free agency by reaching agreements with defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson (four years, $57 million) and Ogbo Okoronkwo (three years, $19 million), according to the person with direct knowledge of the team’s plans.
The Browns are also re-signing center Ethan Polic (three years, $18 million), who moved into the starting lineup when Nick Harris sustained a season-ending injury in August and anchored Cleveland’s offensive line.
Before free agency opened, the Browns restructured quarterback Deshaun Watson’s contract to clear $36 million under the salary cap.
The Browns are also in the market for a wide receiver and safety.
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