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Middle linebacker Anthony Walker signs 1-year, $3.5M deal, leaves lots of admirers in Indianapolis

As the Browns celebrated, the Colts mourned.

Cleveland signed free agent middle linebacker Anthony Walker to a one-year, $3.5 million deal Friday. He will replace B.J. Goodson, who’s a free agent after exceeding expectations in his lone year with the Browns.

Walker, 25, started 46 games in the last three years for the Colts. In 2020, he had 92 tackles, an interception, five passes defensed and a fumble recovery.

“We are adding another smart, tough football player to the fold,” coach Kevin Stefanski said in the news release. “This is a guy that plays hard, plays fast, plays nasty. He can be a quarterback for the defense out there. Really intelligent, heady player.”

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Walker (6-foot-1, 230 pounds) was a fifth-round pick out of Northwestern in 2017. He stepped into a starting role in Year 2 and played 66, 79 and 68 percent of the snaps the last three seasons.

For his career, he has 343 tackles, 19 for loss, three interceptions, 11 passes defensed, 3.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble.

Colts linebacker Darius Leonard tweeted he was about to cry when he heard the news of Walker leaving Indianapolis.

“If y’all actually understood the impact he has on a locker room!” Leonard tweeted. “Crazy to see such an amazing person, leader, player and a friend leave a locker room!”

He answered a fan who asked what the Browns were getting in Walker.

“Amazing player man, he does everything the right way!” Leonard tweeted. “It sucks that he’s leaving but Cleveland is gaining a Dawg! He’s a great leader and he’s going to lead your defense to be great! I will truly miss him! I give him a lot of credit for my success! I wouldn’t be me without him!”

Andrew Berry adds another piece to the defense, reunites versatile cornerback Troy Hill with safety John Johnson III

General manager Andrew Berry has addressed each level of the defense in the first week of free agency, which provides flexibility in the draft. Safety John Johnson III signed a three-year, $33.75 million deal, defensive end Takk McKinley signed a one-year, $4.25 million deal and cornerback Troy Hill agreed to a multiyear deal.

Linebacker Malcolm Smith also agreed to a one-year deal to return for a second season. In addition to Smith, the Browns bring back Jacob Phillips, Sione Takitaki, Mack Wilson and Elijah Lee at linebacker. Phillips was a third-round pick out of LSU last year and is expected to assume a larger role.

Goodson, 27, was an every-down player for the Browns after spending the first four seasons playing mostly against the run. He held up well, starting all 14 regular-season games he played and totaling two interceptions, six passes defensed, a forced fumble, a half-sack and a team-high 91 tackles, including two for loss.

Walker, who arrived in town Thursday to visit team headquarters, left a lot of admires in Indianapolis.

“I’ve got a special relationship with Anthony Walker,” Colts GM Chris Ballard said in January. “Selfless, team guy, rare leader.’’

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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