Key LB Walker returning to Browns, source says

BEREA, Ohio — The Cleveland Browns are re-signing inside linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. to a one-year contract, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Walker visited the Washington Commanders earlier this week but ultimately decided to return to Cleveland.

While the Browns brought Walker back, they lost free agent running back D’Ernest Johnson, who agreed to a one-year deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars, a source told Schefter. Johnson had only four carries last season but did rush for 146 yards and a touchdown in a start against the Denver Broncos in 2021.

Walker started the first three games for the Browns last season before suffering a season-ending quadriceps tear against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Without Walker, who also made the defensive calls for the Browns on the field, Cleveland’s run defense capitulated. The next week, the Browns gave up 202 yards rushing in a loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

“He is a huge part of our football team,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said of Walker after the injury, “[with] what he brings to us on the field and off the field.”

Cleveland wound up starting five different players at inside linebacker over the course of the year, as Jacob Phillips, Sione Takitaki and Deion Jones all suffered season-ending injuries, as well.

The Browns finished with the second-worst run defense expected points added (-23.11) in the league and the 11th worst over the past decade.