According to reports, the Cleveland Browns had been the team to most expressly pursue free agent pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney, who has remained unsigned since the start of the new league year. the former first-overall pick played under the franchise tag with the Seattle Seahawks in 2019 after being traded to them from the Houston Texans.
Reports have suggested that he didn’t want to play with the Browns, even though they have been the team to come closest to his asking price. Now Cleveland has seemingly shut the door on pursuing Clowney, instead reworking the contract of Olivier Vernon, the pass rusher whom they acquired last offseason from the New York Giants in exchange for Pro Bowl guard Kevin Zeitler.
Vernon was due to make $15.25 million this season, according to Field Yates, with none guaranteed. With the renegotiated deal, $11 million becomes guaranteed, including a $7 million signing bonus, a base salary of $3.75 million, and a $250K workout bonus. There are also $2 million in incentives.
Basically, he sacrificed a few million (though he could get some back) for guarantees. As they say, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
Vernon, a former third-round pick now entering his ninth season, was a Pro Bowler for the New York Giants in 2018, but he has been dogged by injuries over the past three seasons, missing 15 games in that span, in spite of the fact that the never missed a game in his first five seasons.
In his first season with the Browns a year ago, he was limited to action in only 10 games, recording 26 tackles, three and a half sacks, and a forced fumble. He has 54 and a half sacks over the course of his career, with eight forced fumbles and an interception. He is also considered a plus run defender.
There had been speculation throughout the offseason that the Browns might move on from Vernon, and that was not exclusively tied to their pursuit of Clowney, but this new contract reworking all but assures that he will remain in Cleveland this year—think it would be stupid to guarantee him $11 million and then cut him.
This should also effectively end any pursuit of Clowney that might persist as he continues to search for his team in 2020. One issue that teams have had, other than his asking price, has been the inability to bring him in to get a look at him. Under a normal offseason, he likely would have been signed a while ago. This year, there still have not been any in-person workouts, and won’t be for weeks yet.