The Browns released Richardson earlier this offseason in a major cap-saving move, saving around $12 million. That’s not to say that he wasn’t productive while in Cleveland, both on the field and as a locker room leader.
He joined the team in 2019 as a free agent. Last season, he started all 16 games and totaled 64 tackles, 4.5 sacks and one forced fumble.
While the Browns would have welcomed Richardson back at a lower price tag, he will not be returning to Cleveland, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com.
The Browns hoped to re-sign Richardson, 30, after releasing him in April in a salary cap move, but he’s decided he wants to move on, a league source told cleveland.com.
While he’s closed the door on a return to the Browns, Richardson could be in for another reunion with a former team in the Minnesota Vikings, per Jack Day of KFAN 100.3. He played there before signing with the Browns in 2019.
“I’m hearing that there could be a reunion in store for the Vikings and free agent DT Sheldon Richardson, per source,” Day tweeted on Monday. “Some more good news shaping up for the team’s defensive line ahead of the start of mandatory mini camp tomorrow.”
Field Yates of ESPN chimed in saying the sides were heading towards a deal.
Sheldon Richardson Ended on Good Terms With Browns
Richarson was a big part of the turnaround in Cleveland, with the Browns going from a laughing stock to a legitimate contender. Richarson was one of the most consistent producers on the defensive line and took a liking to the city of Cleveland, which he referenced in his goodbye post.
Richardson said his goodbye to Cleveland in an Instagram post, writing: “It was just starting to feel like home. Aye Dawg Pound I had a great time….til next time.”
Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski spoke on the possibility of Richardson returning to the team.
“I’d definitely say he’s on our radar and I’m hopeful,” Stefanski said on the Bull and Fox show. “I know Andrew [Berry] and his agent have kept an open dialogue. Sheldon knows how I feel about him. Really good player. From our end, we’d be thrilled to bring him back.”
With Richardson gone, the Browns will rely on Andrew Billings, Malik Jackson, Jordan Elliott, Tommy Togiai and Marvin Wilson — among others — to hold down the center of the line. The Browns also inked an interesting DT prospect in Malik McDowell this offseason.
McDowell was the 35th overall pick by the Seahawks in 2017 draft but suffered what was thought to be a career-ending injury during an ATV accident. He also dealt with some legal trouble after being selected, but appears ready for a return to the NFL.
Browns Remade Defense in the Offseason
The Browns remade their defense in the offseason and will have new faces taking over the majority of starting spots.
Additions like defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, safety John Johnson III and linebacker Anthony Walker will be among the key new faces on that side of the ball. That’s not to mention highly-regarded rookies Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoahand Gred Newsome.
The entire defense will be together this week for the first time at mandatory minicamp, although a chunk of the unit got a headstart during optional workouts earlier this month.
“Really the D line and kind of as a defense, we decided we needed to be there to work with the younger guys, get some work in with the coaches and for everyone to be able to get on the bags, work on their technique and get on some cleats and a helmet,” Browns star pass-rusher Myles Garrett said. “I know it has been awhile for some of these guys. Just being able to do that and work on your craft a little bit and work on the plays, it flows a little bit more seamless than if we were to take such a long, extended break from each other and not know each other’s tendencies and know how we are on the field.”
The Browns are a top 10 Super Bowl pick contender, coming in at +1,600 to win it all, per VegasInsider.com.