The Browns have made it known to other teams that Vernon is available via trade, per Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated. Vernon has just 11 tackles and no sacks this season starting opposite of Myles Garrett, the NFL’s sack leader.
Vernon’s tenure with the Browns has been a rocky one marred by injury since he arrived last offseason via trade. Vernon played in just 10 games last season, collecting 3.5 sacks, his lowest number since his rookie season. He has also been limited this year, missing a game with a groin injury.
“I know for a while he was struggling physically just coming back initially from the injury. Right now, I feel like he is definitely healthy,” Browns defensive coordinator Joe Woods told reporters this week. “I think he is just trying to find his niche and just get comfortable with some of the things we are doing with the defensive line. He is very close. He has had a couple plays where he has hit the quarterback right as he is throwing the ball. I think it is just a matter of time you will start to see the production from him.”
Browns Renegotiated Olivier Vernon’s Deal in Offseason
It was rumored that the team would be looking to part ways with Vernon heading into the season but failed to land a viable replacement during free agency. Vernon did however renegotiate his deal this offseason to remain with the Browns, who were actively seeking to sign Jadeveon Clowney for most of free agency.
Vernon was due to make $15.25 million, which was not going to be guaranteed until a week before the season. However, on his reworked deal, Vernon is getting $11 million guaranteed through a $7 million signing bonus, $3.75 million base salary, $250,000 workout bonus and $2 million in incentives, according to ESPN’s Field Yates, who first reported the deal. It also guarantees that he’ll be a free agent at the season’s end, as he has a “no-tag” clause. If he lands with another team, this will remain, meaning he’s ver much a rental.
The Browns signed veteran Adrian Clayborn this offseason, but he also has dealt with injuries. Clayborn missed Week 4, but has played on around 30 percent of the defensive snaps since returning to the lineup.
Browns Could Look for Pass-Rush Help Via Trade
If the Browns are open to parting with Vernon, it could mean that they’re serious about bringing in another pass-rusher to play opposite of Garrett.
Washington’s Ryan Kerrigan could be a viable option, likely coming at a low cost via trade. The former first-round pick is Washington’s all-time sack leader and has four this season. Kerrigan has recorded double-digit sacks in four of five seasons before suffering an injury last year that limited him to 12 games. Kerrigan is in the last year of his deal and could help himself by landing with the Browns, potentially pushing hit total to double-digits with Garrett on the other side attracting the attention.
Kerrigan’s teammate Ryan Anderson, Chargers pass-rusher Melvin Ingram, or — although much more unlikely — JJ Watt are other names that have been floated as possibilities for teams in need of help getting to the quarterback.
Myles Garrett Making Case for Defensive Player of the Year
What’s painful about Vernon’s lack of production is that Garrett is having an all-time year on the other side, on pace to possibly break the single-season sack record with 9 through seven games.
Garrett was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Month for October on Thursday. He recorded six sacks, two forced fumbles, 14 tackles and two strip-sacks. He led the NFL in sacks (six) and sack yardage (53.0) in October, while tying for the NFL lead with two strip-sacks.
“He has been a game-changer. He has changed the game many times this season. That is those sack fumbles – he has four – that is changing the game,” Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski said. “It is changing the outcome of games. He knows that we are counting on, he is a great football player, and we are going to need him for the rest of this season to continue to apply pressure to the Q, get the ball out. He is the straw that stirs the drink there.”
The NFL trade deadline is Nov. 3.