Rumors have been swirlling about the Browns having a possible reunion with Richardson at a lower price point. Cleveland had just under $11 million in cap space left after signing Jadeveon Clowney last week to a one-year deal worth $8 million, with another $2 million in incentives, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Parting ways with Richardson saved about $12 million in cap space.
“I want to keep everybody, and there are some salary cap constraints that I think everybody understands and they are hard decisions,” Stefanski said Tuesday. “Sheldon in particular played really productive football for us. He played through injuries, and he took great pride in getting to the playoffs for the first time in his career. He was a big part of that.”
Richardson joined the Browns as an unrestricted free agent in 2019. Last season, he started all 16 games and totaled 64 tackles, 4.5 sacks and one forced fumble. He also showed off a versatile skill set, being able to flex out to defensive end at times.
Richardson was a first-round pick by the Jets in 2013 and was voted the 2013 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. He was named a Pro Bowler in 2014.
With Richardson gone, the Browns would rely more heavily upon veteran free agent signing Malik Jackson and Andrew Billings, who opted out of last season due to COVID-19 concerns.
Jadeveon Clowney Could be Used on Interior of Line
Stefanski also hinted that Clowney could shift inside at times to help fill some reps.
“I do think he is versatile enough to play inside and outside,” Stefanski said. “He has shown that over the course of his career. He is a disruptive football player in the run and the pass game. He is somebody that over the many years and certainly in the last few has seen a lot of attention. Teams have slid to him and put a tight end in there to chip or their running back. We feel like he will have opportunities here playing opposite of Myles. That should help him in the pass game. He is a disruptive player. Excited to add him to the front.”
While Clowney’s sack numbers have been down due to injury, he brings to the table a reputation as one of the best run-stuffing edge players in the league. Pro Football Focus — which ranked Clowney as the No. 4 free agent pass-rusher available this offseason — broke down what he can bring to slow down the opposition’s run game.
“Just like any free agent signing, the key is understanding what a player is bringing to the table,” PFF wrote. “Clowney has elite tools, but he’s never been an elite pass-rusher, as he has posted a pass-rushing grade in the 70s in each of the last three years and a 69.6 mark in 2020. The sack totals will fluctuate from year to year, so don’t let that change the narrative: Clowney is a good, not great, pass-rusher.
“He does his best work in the run game, using those elite tools and heavy hands to win at the point of attack. Since entering the league, Clowney is a 95th percentile run defender and a 77th percentile pass-rusher, so his future team should expect similar snap-to-snap production at this point.”
Stefanski Gives Positive Update on Injured Browns Players
The Browns have multiple key players working their way back from significant injuries last season in receiver Odell Beckham Jr., cornerback Greedy Williams and safety Grant Delpit. Stefanski gave a positive update on the trio.
“I think they are all on track,” Stefanski said. “I do not know the exact date that is for all of those guys, but really like how they are progressing. In particular, Greedy continues to get good news, and I am just so happy for the kid. He just battled his butt off in the rehab room for months and had a great attitude throughout. I am just really, really happy for him as he keeps getting better and better. He has a ways to go, but he is trending in the right direction.”
After a promising rookie season, Williams sat out all of last year with axillary nerve damage in his shoulder. Beckham is rehabbing from a torn ACL while Delpit — the Browns’ second-round pick last year — ruptured his Achilles in training camp.