ASHBURN, Va. — Caleb Brantley thought the Washington Redskins might draft him out of Florida last year.
They passed on him like 30 other NFL teams did before the Cleveland Browns finally took the defensive lineman in the sixth round. Brantley faced a misdemeanor battery complaint that was dismissed after the draft.
The Redskins signed Brantley on Monday after he was cut by the Browns, hoping his off-field issues are behind him and he gives them an upgrade over Anthony Lanier, whom they waived with an injury designation.
“From what we understood, the charges are dropped and everything’s OK,” coach Jay Gruden said. “He’s been there in Cleveland the last couple years, so there haven’t been any issues yet. We’ll see. We understand who he is, where he comes from and what he’s done and what he’s going to do, and we’ve got to hope that we get the best out of him both as a player and as a person.”
The 24-year-old Brantley had 18 tackles and two sacks last season as a rookie. After a sack and two tackles in the preseason weren’t enough to make the Browns’ roster, he hopes defensive line coach Jim Tomsula can get him back to the level of his junior season at Florida when he led the Gators with 9½ tackles for loss and had 2½ sacks.
“I feel like I can add pressure up the middle and just be a disruptive force,” Brantley said. “I just get in there and get vertical and penetrate. And I feel like I can be that kind of player here. I feel like I can learn a lot from Coach Tomsula. He’s one of the best D-line coaches. I’m just looking forward to learning from him and just doing what he asks me to do.”
Brantley is the Redskins’ fifth defensive lineman 25 or younger, joining first-round picks from Alabama Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne, Tim Settle and Matt Ioannidis. Gruden said those players and veteran Ziggy Hood are ahead of Brantley, who seems like a long shot to play in the season opener Sunday at Arizona.
More likely, he’s a long-term prospect for the Redskins, who moved on from Lanier after he was hampered recently by a hip flexor groin injury. He made Washington’s 53-man roster as an undrafted free agent in 2016 and had 14 tackles and five sacks last season.
“We like Anthony,” Gruden said. “He did a lot of great things for this organization. But at the end of the day, we thought Caleb adds a little bit more to the defensive line room.”