At 6-4 and 275 pounds, Matt Roth seems an ideal fit for the Browns at defensive end in their new 4-3 defense. He played the position at Iowa before converting to linebacker.
Mean and nasty on the field and stout against the run, Roth could hold down the left end position while rookie Jabaal Sheard is broken in as a pass rusher at the less-demanding right end spot.
But Roth, who is an unrestricted free agent no matter the outcome of the NFL labor dispute, sounds as if he is resigned to leaving. He prefers to stay in a 3-4 defensive system, has been looking forward to gaining some financial security through free agency and wants to play for a winning team.
"Right now I kind of like the 3-4 [defensive system]," Roth said in a phone interview, his first since the Browns' season ended and the coaching staff was overhauled. "I feel the Browns are on the right track. But going into my seventh season, I want to play for a winner. I do feel the Browns are right there. They've done a good job. I'm not sure what's going to happen."
Roth was one of the best player pickups in the two seasons of coach Eric Mangini. He was awarded to the Browns on Nov. 25, 2009 after Bill Parcells, then the Miami Dolphins VP of personnel, put Roth on waivers. The Dolphins questioned Roth's slowness in returning from two groin surgeries.
In 22 games with the Browns -- all of them as a starter at left outside linebacker in their 3-4 alignment -- Roth had 7.5 sacks and 114 tackles. He never missed a game.
Roth said he loved playing for defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who was not kept by the new Pat Shurmur regime.
"I challenge you to [find] one player who wouldn't run through a wall for him," Roth said. "I love playing that style. I know [new coordinator] Dick Jauron's a good coach, but I don't want to have to deal with no nonsense. Just want to come in and play, do my job and have fun. That's a big factor in wherever I go."
He wouldn't rule out following Ryan to Dallas, where Ryan now heads up the Cowboys' defense. All NFL business is frozen until the labor dispute is resolved.
In this conversation, Roth made a few references to not wanting to deal with "no nonsense." He wouldn't elaborate but he obviously wasn't happy with the situation in Miami. And considering Mangini looked up to Parcells as a mentor, it was assumed that Roth was not enamored playing for Mangini.
Not true, he said.
"I think Mangini was a great coach," he said. "I don't think anyone ever quit in either of those years. We beat up on some pretty damn good teams. We didn't have an easy schedule."
The Browns went 4-2 after acquiring Roth in 2009. He said Mangini deserved to come back after winning the last four games even though it was obvious that he and President Mike Holmgren were opposites.
Roth had an interesting take on the demise of the 2010 season, when the Browns lost six of their last eight games to finish with a second consecutive 5-11 record.
"The wide receivers were young," he said. "If we could have added a veteran to that mix and [gotten] those wide receivers going, I think we could have won at least eight games, easily.
"Those kids, I think, are going to be good down the road. Receiver's not an easy position to come and play right away, like running back or defensive line. I think they're talented. If they get a couple guys in to teach them the ropes . . .
"The offensive line is great. The running backs are great. I thought Colt [McCoy] stepped in and did a great job. We did well on defense last year. I think we were so close. That's a tough division."
One thing that left an indelible mark on Roth is the passion of the Browns' fans.
"I loved playing for Cleveland," he said. "The people were absolutely fantastic. I wish we could've had more wins because I've never seen anything like that -- 30 degrees below zero, four wins and they're still packing the stadium. I am going to miss the people and those fans."