There have been plenty of rumors surrounding Cleveland Browns defensive end Olivier Vernon, but well-paid Pro Bowl pass-rusher remains on the roster. And according to the Browns leadership, Vernon is going to remain on the roster for the foreseeable future.
Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com previously reported earlier this offseason that the Browns would “probably be looking to replace” Vernon, who was part of a blockbuster trade last season that sent offensive lineman Kevin Zeitler to the Giants.
Vernon spent much of last year dealing with injuries and didn’t make the impact that was expected, especially for the price tag he carries. Vernon — who made the Pro Bowl two seasons ago — is due to make $15.5 million next season.
Vernon had 26 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 11 quarterback hits last season. He’s missed 15 games over the past three years.
Browns GM: Olivier Vernon Will Continue to Be Here
Browns general manager Andrew Berry was asked about Vernon and made his point very clear.
“This is probably another one of those questions where we are pretty much in the same place,” Berry told reporters, per the Browns official site. “Olivier is a good football player, and we like having good football players on the roster. He is a talented defensive end. He is here and will continue to be here.”
Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski echoed those comments from Berry when asked if the team not drafting a defensive end was a commitment to DE Olivier Vernon.
“Obviously, I think Olivier is a really great player. Unfortunately, he was banged up a little bit, but we look forward to all our guys contributing next year,” Stefanski said. “I wouldn’t say it was a message of any sort in the fact that we didn’t draft defensive ends. We are not in the business of sending messages via the draft. We just kind of – going back previously –trusted the board, and as the players came up, we made sure that we had the right people for the job.”
Berry was straight-forward, but it wouldn’t be the first time a team executive or coach said a player would remain on the roster. The Browns previous regime had a similar take on running back Duke Johnson Jr. before sending him to Houston. The problem with a trade, however, would be that it would likely be very hard for the team to find a suitor for the oft-injured 29-year-old with a big contract.
Browns Have Pursued Jadeveon Clowney
The Browns would suffer no dead cap if they moved on from Vernon, but need a capable threat opposite of Myles Garrett and have the cap room to spare.
ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported earlier this offseason that the Browns were close to inking former No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney before a deal fell through. However, Cleveland is still in on the sweepstakes for the three-time Pro Bowl end, 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.”
Clowney was one of the bigger name free agents on the market, but has been unable to get the money he expected. He remains on the market after the draft and will likely bet on himself and play on a one-year deal to get a big money extension next offseason.
Browns Have Already Moved on From Veteran Defenders
Schobert landed in Jacksonville on a five-year contract with $22.5 million guaranteed. The deal is worth a total of $53.75 million.
Schobert made 133 tackles last season, leading the Browns. He also snagged four interceptions and collected a pair of sacks. It was his third season in a row with triple-digit tackles, totaling 104 in 2018 and 144 during a Pro Bowl campaign in 2017.
Kirksey inked a two-year, $16 million contract with Green Bay. When healthy, Kirksey was a high-producing talent. He had 138 tackles in 2017 and 148 the year prior to that. He had 484 tackles, 11.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and two interceptions during his time with the Browns.