The Cleveland Browns strategy in free agency was to be aggressive, and the front office has lived up to that, filling key positions and even negotiating with one of the biggest name free agents in Jadeveon Clowney.
ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported that the Browns were close to inking the former No. 1 overall pick before a deal fell through. However, Cleveland is still in on the sweepstakes for Clowney, who has 32 career sacks.
“They’re all in on free agency,” Fowler noted on SportsCenter, per Heavy’s Jonathan Adams. “This is not a rebuild any longer because I’m told not only did they sign big players like Austin Hooper and Jack Conklin, they’ve been in on the Jadeveon Clowney mix. Some people around the league believe they even got close to a deal at some point in the last week. And so, they have Olivier Vernon as [a] pass rusher, but he has a $15.5 million cap hit. They can always switch that out for Clowney opposite Myles Garrett, [which] would be a dangerous combination on the edge for the Cleveland Browns. Two or three years ago, they would not be looking at making these kind of moves, but it is a different time. They’re all in because they believe they can contend right now.”
Browns new head coach Kevin Stefanski commended the efforts of the front office in free agency while speaking with reporters on a conference call on Thursday.
“A credit to [EVP and GM] Andrew Berry and his staff. I think AB set out a plan and followed through on it. You never know as you go through a player acquisition period of exactly how it is going to play out, but we identified some people that were really important to what we want to do and who we want to be,” Stefanski said, per cleveland.com. “They have done outstanding, and I know they are still working because there is a lot of work still to be done.”
Jadeveon Clowney Fits With Browns Opposite Myles Garrett
The Browns were seeking to beef up their pass-rush corps in free agency and possibly replace the talented but oft-injured Olivier Vernon.
Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reported earlier this offseason that the Browns would “probably be looking to replace” Vernon, who is the highest paid player on the roster, due $15.5 million next season. But the Browns would suffer no dead cap money if they parted ways with him, making the veteran defensive end disposable if they found a better option.
Vernon had 26 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 11 quarterback hits last season. He’s missed 15 games over the past three years.
If the Browns were to sign Clowney, he could be the credible threat needed opposite of Myles Garrett and the Browns could part ways with Vernon.
The Browns did sign veteran Adrian Clayborn earlier in free agency, but he’s likely to play more of a rotational role. Clayborn has 36.5 career sacks, his best year coming in 2017, when he notched 9.5 for the Falcons. Last season he had four sacks and 18 tackles in Atlanta. Clayborn won Super Bowl LIII with the New England Patriots in 2018.
Clowney Not Getting Big-Time Offers That Were Expected
It was reported that Clowney’s original contract demand was for $20 million per year. That would put him in the top five edge rushers: Khalil Mack ($23.5 million), Demarcus Lawrence ($21 million), Frank Clark ($20.8 million) and Von Miller ($19.83 million).
That has reportedly dropped to a number closer to the $17-18 million range,” according to ESPN’s Diana Russini.
“As we continue to watch the market for Jadeveon Clowney, I am told by several sources the asking price has been moved off that $20 million number and it’s closer to $17-18 million. This could spark more interest. Also told Titans and Seahawks are still interested.”
Clowney did not have the best contract year statistically, collecting just three sacks and 31 tackles in 11 starts with the Seahawks. However, he’s just 27 years old and still a towering presence that teams have to account for every play. And playing with with Garrett would only optimize his production.