BEREA — Matt Roth needed a fresh start, while the Browns needed an outside linebacker.
It was a match made in football heaven — or at least both sides hope it will be — which is why Cleveland scooped him off waivers from the Miami Dolphins three days ago.
“If I’m a gambler, I’m gambling on myself,” Roth said Friday. “It’s kind of short notice to be changing teams, but I look forward to getting after it.
“I’ll definitely be playing this week and I look forward to being used in all aspects of the game.”
It’s understandable why the five-year veteran is so eager to play Sunday when the Browns travel to Cincinnati to face the AFC North Division-leading Bengals.
Roth was limited to just four games this season before the Dolphins released him, largely because of a personality conflict with their coaching staff.
The 6-foot-4, 275-pounder had been a very effective player in his first four pro campaigns — all with Miami — but fell into disfavor when his recovery from spring groin surgery took longer than the Dolphins expected.
“I played the last two years with a torn groin, but it’s 100 percent now and I’m ready to go,” Roth said.
“I’m turning the page on Miami, but there was definitely a falling out. The coaches were disappointed that I couldn’t go early in the season, but my players knew I was hurt, and that’s all that matters.”
Cleveland coach Eric Mangini and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan both referred to Roth’s acquisition as catching a break. Since the Browns are tied for the worst record in the NFL, they are at the front of the line when it comes to claiming players off waivers.
In most cases, those athletes are retreads and role players. But not in this instance.
Roth played in every game for Miami in 2008, collecting career-highs of 53 tackles, five quarterback sacks and four passes defensed. It was his first year at LB after primarily playing defensive end.
“I’m surprised and excited because we claimed a good player like that,” said Ryan, who coached Roth at the Senior Bowl four years ago. “He’s a smart, tough guy, with an emphasis on the tough part. It’s a blessing for us for sure because you usually don’t find a guy like that late in the year.”
Roth, an Iowa product, owns 12.5 career sacks in 64 games. He will immediately take over for Jason Trusnik at the outside LB spot opposite of Kamerion Wimbley, but could also see time on the inside.
Regardless of where he is on a particular play, expect to see him somewhere on the field.
“Matt is a guy that came into his own, I thought, last year as an outside linebacker,” Mangini said. “He’s a strong, physical guy. He was tough to handle whenever we faced him in New York, and it’s good to have him here.”
In a best-case scenario, Roth takes advantage of this golden opportunity and earns a new contract from the Browns. With linebacker being one of their major weaknesses, he’ll have every chance to succeed.
But if things don’t work out in Cleveland, he’ll be back on the market with plenty of game film from the experience.
Either way, Roth says it’s a win-win proposition for him.
“I’m looking at this as I’ve got five more weeks and I’m a free agent,” he explained. “When two parties are unhappy like we were in Miami, it’s best to go your separate ways.
“Now, I think I’m going to be good at outside linebacker and I believe I will get the job done here. I’d like to play for the Dawg Pound for quite a while.”
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org