The Cleveland Browns earlier this offseason made the decision to release veteran defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson when they reached an agreement with edge defender Jadeveon Clowney. While they in turn brought in another veteran defensive tackle in Malik Jackson, they left the door open to re-signing Richardson on a more team-friendly deal.
It doesn’t sound like that will happen at this point. Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com reported yesterday that the free agent made the decision that he will play elsewhere in 2021. The Browns saved about $12 million in salary cap space with his release.
Cabot seems to imply that the Browns even offered him a second deal. “Richardson pondered returning, and might’ve received a better offer from the Browns, but it wasn’t about the money for him”, she writes, which is interesting.
In the same report, she indicated that he may still yet return to familiar grounds, possibly nearing a deal to rejoin the Minnesota Vikings. Later reports in the evening even said that he is “nearing” a deal, though, as of this writing, nothing is official.
The signing of Richardson in 2019 was part of a major defensive investment by the Browns and rebuild their defensive line, which at the time, obviously centered around Myles Garrett, also featured Larry Ogunjobi and Olivier Vernon. Neither are with the team any longer, replaced by Jackson, Clowney, and Andrew Billings, who originally signed last season but opted out of the 2020 season.
Richardson originally signed a three-year, $36 million deal to come to Cleveland. During that time, he played in every game, registering 126 tackles, 7.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, and seven passes defensed. He spent one year in Minnesota in 2018, in addition to one year with the Seattle Seahawks in 2017 after they acquired him via trade from his original drafting team, the New York Jets, who selected him with their first-round pick in 2013.
As for Jackson, the former 2012 fifth-round pick, he has most recently spent the past two years with the Philadelphia Eagles following his time first in Denver and then in Jacksonville. He only started six of 15 games last season, registering 28 tackles with 2.5 sacks.
Of course, the Browns’ major investments this offseason came in the secondary, adding Troy Hill, John Johnson, and Greg Newsome, while they are also expected to get a pair of would-be starters in 2020 back from injury, including cornerback Greedy Williams.