Sione Takitaki will get the opportunity to rewrite his ending with the Browns.
Takitaki’s breakout 2022 season came to an abrupt halt Dec. 4 when an anterior cruciate ligament tore in a win over the Texans. That hurt the linebacker’s appeal on the free agent market and he’ll return to the Browns after agreeing Tuesday on a one-year deal worth about $2.6 million, a league source confirmed to The Chronicle-Telegram.
That was the only move by the Browns on the second day of the two-day free agent negotiating period. It was a slow day compared with Monday, when deals were reached with defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson (four years, $57 million), defensive end Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (three years, $19 million) and center Ethan Pocic, who’ll return on a three-year, $18 million contract.
DT Dalvin Tomlinson, DE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo agree to deals on first day of free agency
The league year starts Wednesday at 4 p.m., and those contracts can become official.
Takitaki, 27, was a third-round pick out of BYU in 2019. He’s started 29 of 57 games with 203 tackles, 11 for loss, two sacks, five quarterback hits, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and an interception returned 50 yards for a touchdown.
Notes: Center Ethan Pocic returning on 3-year deal
He spent the first three years of his career playing mostly on the strong side in the base defense. His role expanded last year when the linebacking corps was decimated by injury, and he excelled as the middle linebacker.
In eight starts and 12 games, he had 71 tackles, four for loss, a sack and a forced fumble.
The torn ACL interrupted the progress. He had surgery and is expected to be ready for the start of the season, but the uncertainty made it tough on the free agent.
“Could have definitely got hooked up in the next contract, but I’m excited,” Takitaki said Jan. 9 after the season. “I still got a lot of tape and I bring a lot to the table and I’m just excited.”
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He hoped to come back.
“I love Cleveland. I told them I want to be back, so we’ll see what the future holds,” he said.
He was sorely missed over the final month on the field and in the locker room.
“Tak is one of my favorites,” coach Kevin Stefanski said after the injury. “Plays very, very physically. Loves this game. Plays hard. A great teammate.
“His role had expanded because he earned it. Like he always does, he is going to attack it and be ready to go next year.”
Even with Takitaki’s return, the linebacker position remains unsettled.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (foot sprain) and Jacob Phillips (torn pectoral) are coming off season-ending injuries, as is starting middle linebacker Anthony Walker Jr., who’s a free agent after missing most of the season after suffering a torn quadriceps tendon. He’s also a candidate to return, and Berry could further add to the mix with a veteran and/or draft pick.