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Browns: Recent pick-up Stephen Paea brings versatility, experience to defensive line

BEREA — The Browns have made 34 player transactions in September, but none are likely to have a more immediate impact than their first.
Defensive end Stephen Paea, a five-year veteran, signed with Cleveland on Friday, giving the club much-needed experience and strength in the trenches. He will be in uniform Sunday when the Browns open the season in Philadelphia.
“It’s good when you go to a team that wants you and wants you to play for them,” the 6-foot-1, 300-pounder said. “I’ll be here rotating in and trying to help the team, so I’m happy about it and my family is happy about it.”
Paea was a second-round pick by the Bears in the 2011 NFL Draft and spent his first four seasons in Chicago. The Oregon State product played 11 games for the Redskins last year, but was released during the league’s penultimate cutdown Aug. 30.
Cleveland quickly scooped him up, adding 41 starts and 66 career games to a defensive line with just one grizzled veteran in John Hughes.
Paea is set to line up opposite Hughes, backing up starting end Xavier Cooper, and also will spell nose tackle Danny Shelton against the Eagles.
“Putting Paea with this group, we think we’ve got a group that’s going to give us a chance,” Browns coach Hue Jackson said. “Danny Shelton is there, so is Coop, and I think those guys are doing a good job.”
Since Shelton has not lived up to expectations since being the Browns’ top draft pick in 2015, it’s not a stretch to imagine Paea moving ahead of him on the depth chart. Paea also could be part of four-man fronts when defensive coordinator Ray Horton shifts out of a 3-4 alignment.
Regardless of where, or how much, he plays, the proud Polynesian plans on teaching the younger linemen how to be a professional on and off the field.
“This is the first time in my career that I’ve been the oldest guy on the D-line, so I’ve got to step up and be a leader in the room,” the 28-year-old Paea said. “I’m going to be able to use my experience — and that’s part of the advantage for me — helping these young boys. Not just vocally, but working with them any way I can.”
Because of their shared heritage, Paea and Shelton became friends long before becoming teammates. They also have common experiences playing for Pac-12 colleges (Shelton attended Washington) and have been criticized for being out of shape.
Pairing them up could be a masterstroke in motivating Shelton. If nothing else, it looks like a low-risk, potentially high-reward situation for all parties.
“Polynesians always stay close, so it’ll be fun playing with Danny, man,” Paea said. “I also felt like I never got the chance to show what I could do in Washington, so I’m here and I’m ready to help this team out. Obviously, I’ve got a little chip on my shoulder, too.”
Contact Brian Dulik at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @BrianDulik.

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.

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