Juan Thornhill packed his Super Bowl expectations when he left Kansas City for Cleveland.
“All of the pieces are here,” the safety said Friday during his introductory news conference. “Got a really good quarterback, receivers, the defense is super strong. I feel like all of the pieces are here and we have that capability of getting there and making a splash in the playoffs and making it to the Super Bowl. I have all confidence in that.”
The Chiefs let Thornhill, 27, leave in free agency and he signed a three-year, $21 million contract with the Browns. He replaces John Johnson III and is part of the influx of defensive talent since free agency began Monday.
In four years with the Chiefs, who drafted him in the second round, he won two Super Bowls and lost another. The Chiefs beat the Eagles for the title last month, and Thornhill played all 75 defensive snaps, registering five tackles, one for loss, and a pass defensed.
He had a difficult time walking away from the Chiefs, but the landing spot made it easier.
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“It’s really hard. It’s hard because you build those relationships with the guys in the locker room and when you build those relationships, you don’t want to leave,” he said. “But sometimes it’s part of business. Some teams can’t bring you back. And at the same time you can see yourself fitting in in a different organization and helping them become way better or making it to the Super Bowl and adding your skill set to that defense and to make us so much better. And I’m excited for that.”
Thornhill (6-foot, 203 pounds) started 52 of 65 games with the Chiefs, including all 16 regular-season games he played in 2022, totaling three interceptions, nine passes defensed, 71 tackles, four for loss, a sack and two quarterback hits. For his career, he has eight interceptions, one returned for a touchdown, 20 passes defensed, 234 tackles, five for loss, a sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and four quarterback hits.
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The excitement for his new team hit a new level Friday when he spent 30 or 45 minutes with new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.
“He got me pumped up, that’s all I can say, already, just talking a little bit about football, the scheme, how he sees me in the defense and he got me ready to go for sure,” Thornhill said. “Coach Schwartz, he drew up a couple plays on the board, and I just like what he was drawing up. I can see me stepping in and playing a big role and helping this team tremendously and making a lot of plays for this team.”
Thornhill has the speed — 4.42-second 40-yard dash at the combine — and athleticism to patrol the deep middle but said Schwartz sees him filling a variety of roles.
“I think I’m that guy that can cover from sideline to sideline. No matter where the ball’s going to go, I can see myself going to get it,” Thornhill said. “But I can tell that he likes those guys that can do multiple jobs, being able to cover man-to-man, being down in the box, playing a deep half and in the third.”
That fits with Thornhill’s personality.
“I’ve always been taught to be that guy, to never allow your coach to take you off the field,” he said. “So I would see me as being that guy that can do everything. He can cover, be down in the box, make plays, he can blitz, sack the quarterback. I want to be that guy that can take control of a game and go get the ball when it’s in the air and cause fumbles when it’s that time to make that big play.”
The Browns have missed the playoffs two straight years and have never been to the Super Bowl. Thornhill knows what it takes to get there and win, which is valuable.
“Going to bring that energy and I’m going to bring it to my teammates, as well, and if I see someone slacking, I’m going to let them know that’s not the way to go about it, let’s pick it up so we can get to where we want to be,” he said.