The Pittsburgh Steelers have already announced that they will be parting ways with 30-year-old veteran safety Morgan Burnett, saying that if they are unable to trade him by April 1, they will release him. Given there being no indications to date of a market for him and his contract that includes $9 million in base salary over the next two seasons, it’s becoming increasingly—arguably overwhelmingly—likely that he will be released.
Regardless of the manner of his departure, one team that figures to be interested in him, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, will be the Cleveland Browns. And it makes a ton of sense if you think about it, on multiple fronts.
One team to watch if/when Steelers release safety Morgan Burnett released: The Browns. Front office and coaching staff knows him well from Green Bay days (pass game coord. Joe Whitt coached him). Expecting interest.
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) March 28, 2019
For one thing, Browns General Manager John Dorsey was the Green Bay Packers’ Director of College Scouting when they drafted him there in 2010. And since Dorsey has come aboard, the organization has brought along several other former members of the Packers’ front office staff from that same period or beyond.
Burnett played his first eight seasons with the Packers from 2010 through 2017 before he signed a three-year contract with the Steelers worth over $14 million. He was brought in to be a starter, but injuries and the development of rookie Terrell Edmunds saw his opportunity passed over by the time he was healthy.
He requested his release and the Steelers are more than happy to scrub his $9 million owed over the next two years off the books as a backup player. But the Browns are looking for a starter alongside former Packers defensive back Damarious Randall after they traded away Jabrill Peppers in exchange for Odell Beckham, Jr.
So not only are they looking for a starting safety, they would be looking at him as a team whose front office members drafted him, to line him up with a player that he has already played with—albeit at a different position, as Randall was a cornerback in Green Bay before the Browns moved him to safety.
And for those wondering, yes, Randall plays and is capable of playing the free safety position, which would allow Burnett to slide into the strong safety role that he wants to play after he was limited to playing the dimebacker role during most of his tenure in Pittsburgh.
The only hangup in terms of the team wanting him enough to trade for him, I think, is the fact that they have already given up so much of their draft resources this offseason that they are not interested in giving up any more—even a late-round compensation. In other words, they will likely only pursue him if he is released, which doesn’t do the Steelers any good.