Danny Shelton's Early Success Made Phil Taylor Easy for Browns to Cut

By Casey Drottar
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Today was another day of roster cuts across the NFL. While teams still need another round to get their respective rosters down to 53, this hardly means there weren’t any surprising names released today.

One of these was Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Phil Taylor. Drafted by the team after it traded away its first 2011 pick to the Atlanta Falcons (which was used on Julio Jones), Taylor proved to be a solid player for Cleveland. However, the team terminated his contract this afternoon, essentially avoiding having to pay the $5.477 million owed to him this season.

There are many reasons why Taylor will be playing for another team this year, but none bigger than the man Cleveland is tabbing to replace him. Make no mistake; the early returns from rookie Danny Shelton made the call to cut Taylor an easy one.

Everyone assumed Taylor’s time with the team had an expiration date the second the Browns picked Shelton in the first round of this year’s draft. However, they obviously weren’t going to send him packing right away. The team needed to know what it had in Shelton before it felt comfortable moving on from Taylor.

After just three preseason games, it looks like Cleveland has seen all it needed to see from Shelton, thus making Taylor expendable.

Shelton has taken to his first summer with the Browns like a fish to water. He brings a relentless energy and aggression every time he touches the field, whether it be for a preseason game or practice. Offensive lines have had a significantly difficult time holding him back, one of the big reasons why Cleveland picked him 12th overall this spring. More importantly, the transition from college to the pros hasn’t seem to have had any ill-effect whatsoever so far.

Likewise, Taylor just recently got back onto the field for the first time since last November. He’d been recovering from knee surgery, and didn’t return to team drills until early August. While he had his moments throughout his time in Cleveland, it certainly wasn’t enough to merit the kind of money the team would’ve owed him this season.

The Browns’ rush defense wasn’t exactly its strong suit last year. Taylor’s struggles against the run were part of the problem, and the team’s selection of Shelton was its attempt to fix it. There was a chance the two of them could’ve both made the team, but the pressure was higher on the veteran.

Be that as it may, Taylor only just recently getting on the field for the first time this preseason didn’t help his chances. While he was out, Shelton was turning heads almost every single day. In the end, it appeared there wasn’t much Taylor could do to save himself from being cut.

The wealth of depth Cleveland has on the defensive line certainly didn’t aid Taylor, either. Along with Shelton and rookie Xavier Cooper, the Browns also have Desmond Bryant, John Hughes, Randy Starks and Billy Winn. On top of this, undrafted free agent Jamie Meder has been one of the team’s camp surprises.

As you can see, the amount of players Cleveland boasts on the defensive line was already putting Taylor on shaky ground. Combined with the salary he was owed this season, Taylor had a lot going against him even before the Browns got a good look at Shelton.

Of course, when they finally did, it pretty much sealed Taylor’s fate.

There’s no doubt Taylor will catch on with another club. When healthy, he’s a very talented lineman, and will certainly help a team in need of some defensive help.

On a less exciting note for Cleveland, Taylor’s release ends up officially ruling the aforementioned Jones trade a lopsided win for Atlanta. Not one single pick the Browns acquired from the Falcons in said deal is a member of the team anymore, and most of them – Brandon Weeden, Owen Marecic, Greg Little – were notorious busts.

Regardless, Cleveland can at least feel good about where it’s at after releasing Taylor. Their top overall pick from this year’s draft has excelled so far, and it made cutting their No. 1 selection from 2011 much easier to swallow.

Casey Drottar is the Cleveland Beat Writer for Rantsports.com. Follow him on Twitter or “Like” him on Facebook

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