— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 12, 2019
After sitting out the first day of the “legal tampering” portion of free agency,1 which caused much chagrin amongst Browns fans that saw big-name players like Trent Brown, Tyrann Mathieu, Trey Flowers, Landon Collins among others sign big money contracts, general manager John Dorsey filled at least one big hole on the defense with the expected signing of defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson to a three year deal. The deal is reported as being for three years and $36 million, but the financial details were hardly going to be an issue, as Cleveland had the fifth-most cap space of any team in the NFL after trades and roster cuts were applied.
Richardson comes from Minnesota where the big defensive lineman played for one season, registering 4.5 sacks and 49 tackles for the Vikings. While the counting numbers seem low for such a big investment moneywise, Richardson has long been classified as a top defensive lineman for years, often opening up space and blockers for other pass rushers to get to the quarterback. Playing alongside Myles Garrett, Larry Ogunjobi, newly acquired Oliver Vernon and Genard Avery will undoubtedly help out those players sack counts. Richardson will also continue to put up numbers for Cleveland, as Jake Burns shows us on Twitter, Richardson has amazing lateral quickness despite being almost 300lbs.
Richardson moves so well for an interior player. pic.twitter.com/DsIlJOXaHx
— Jake Burns (@jake_burns18) March 12, 2019
Cleveland will be Richardson’s fourth team in four years, as he has bounced around the league due to some off the field issues has kept the player from staying longer in spots. Among those was an instance in 2015 where Richardson was caught going 143 mph by police. In the car were a fully loaded gun, a 12-year-old child and the smell of marijuana. The fleeing and resisting arrest came after Richardson was already on a four-game suspension for violating the substance abuse policy. Richardson also has clashed with teammates in the past, getting into it with then-teammate Brandon Marshall over what Richardson felt like was a lack of drive to play. In what feels like a trend after signing Kareem Hunt and drafting Antonio Callaway a year ago, Dorsey is looking past any off-the-field instances and looking at the talent players bring to the table on the field.
While it remains to be seen what else the Browns do in free agency and/or via trade, the addition of Richardson spells doom for the rest of the AFC North who seems to be more focused on losing players than signing them. Baltimore will field almost an entirely new defense as Terrell Suggs, CJ Mosley, Eric Weddle, and Za’Darius Smith are all taking their talents elsewhere. Pittsburgh traded All-Pro Antonio Brown to Oakland for a bag of beans and lost tight end Jesse James to Detroit in free agency. Cincinnati re-signs tight end CJ Uzomah, but have had very little player movement this far in the offseason.
With the signing of Richardson and trading for Vernon, the Browns seem to be positioning themselves for taking the best player available in the upcoming draft by filling holes with good veterans rather than hoping rookies and undrafted free agents can do the job. Cleveland’s spot is such that it lends itself to getting incredible value going forward. Whether it be a linebacker, tight end, cornerback, or even a trade, Cleveland seems to be one of the best spots of the draft to get a difference maker player at the No. 17 spot.