Browns Still Among Favorites to Land Top Free Agent

Getty Jadeveon Clowney of the Seattle Seahawks celebrates a touchdown.

Things have been quiet of late, but the Cleveland Browns are still among the favorites to land top free agent pass-rusher Jadeveon Clowney.

The Browns have been linked to Clowney this offseason and reportedly got closer than any other team to inking the former No. 1 overall pick to a deal. The Browns not only have a huge amount of cap space, but also a disposable contract in veteran defensive end Olivier Vernon.

Vernon is owed more than $15 million next season — the highest among Browns defenders, but none of it is guaranteed. The team could give Clowney the money he is seeking, which is reportedly between $17-20 million per year on a short-term deal, and not see too much of an impact on their cap space.

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 opposite fellow top-pick Myles Garrett would only optimize his production.

Seahawks Haven’t Had Great News Regarding Clowney

SportsLine list the Browns as +400, behind the Titans (+250) and Seahawks (+350). However, the Seahawks haven’t had great news of late and Seattle is playing the waiting game.

“He knows that the Seahawks are a place that he had some success, and that he had a really good time and he contributed to our club and all of that,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said following the draft (h/t Sports Illustrated). “That’s a pretty good feeling for him being out there still. John will take care of it. If there’s an opportunity that makes sense, we’ll dive back in and pursue it.”

There’s also the fact that Seahawks defensive tackle DT Jarran Reed said he would be reclaiming his No. 90 that he gave Clowney last year. However, Seahawks GM John Schneider fired back at that statement, telling reports “I don’t remember approving that yet.”


Browns Comment on Vernon’s Future

Vernon had 26 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 11 quarterback hits last season. He’s missed 15 games over the past three years.

Browns general manager Andrew Berry was asked about Vernon and made his point very clear.

“Olivier is a good football player, and we like having good football players on the roster,” Berry said. “He is a talented defensive end. He is here and will continue to be here.”

Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski was also complimentary of Vernon, echoing Berry’s sentiments.

“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.”

That being said, Berry has also been adamant that the Browns will not be hesitant to add talent if the opportunity presents itself.

“We’ll be opportunistic across the roster. And we do want to be responsible balancing both the short-term and long-term planning,” Berry said on 92.3 The Fan on Wednesday. “But if there’s something out there that ends up making sense — whether it’s a free agent acquisition or trade acquisition — we will do that really at any position on the 90-man roster. We don’t play for another four months so there are plenty of opportunities to continue to improve the team. The offseason doesn’t stop after that draft, so that will certainly be our mindset.”

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