Cowboys Encouraged to Sign Ex-Defensive Rookie of the Year

Former Browns DL Sheldon Richardsson

Getty Former Browns DL Sheldon Richardsson

While the frenzy of free agency is well in the rearview, there remains on the open market a player the Dallas Cowboys “need” to secure before the 2021 NFL season kicks off.

Per Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox, the Cowboys “should take a long look at” signing former Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, completing a months-long defensive rebuild under new coordinator Dan Quinn.

Via Knox:

Richardson spent the last two seasons in Cleveland and emerged as a valuable piece in the Browns’ defensive line rotation. He played 74 percent of the defensive snaps last year and finished with 64 total tackles, 4.5 sacks and 22 quarterback pressures.

Not only could Richardson help boost Dallas’ front-line run defense, but he could also help generate pressure from the interior. For a team that was so bad against the run and only logged 31 sacks as a team, his addition could be huge.

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Richardson a Decorated Pro

Selected by the New York Jets in the first round of the 2013 draft, Richardson has compiled 273 solo tackles, 58 tackles for loss, 92 quarterback hits, 31 sacks, and 10 forced fumbles across 121 career games (118 starts) and four NFL teams.

In 2017, the Jets traded Richardson to the Seattle Seahawks, with whom he went one-and-done. He joined the Minnesota Vikings the following season. In 2019, Cleveland inked Richardson to a three-year, $36 million free-agent deal that included $21 million guaranteed. The Missouri product logged all 32 appearances for the Browns, notching 126 tackles (78 solo, nine for loss), 16 QB hits, 7.5 sacks, seven pass deflections, and four FFs.

Richardson — the league’s Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2013 and a Pro Bowler in 2014 — was released by the Browns on April 16. He’s drawn little known interest as a free agent.

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Dallas Previously Expressed No Interest

Richardson was first linked to the Cowboys following his April release. However, Mike Fisher of reported at the time the 6-foot-3, 295-pound defender was “not of particular interest” to the organization. (Fisher also floated the club’s disinterest in then-free-agent DL Maurice Hurst, who’s since joined the 49ers.)

“Opinions can change, and needs can force those changes,” Fisher wrote on April 17. “Dallas is presently reliant on youngsters Trysten Hill and Neville Gallimore to do most of the work inside. After the NFL Draft, maybe Dallas re-examines its thoughts here. Injuries down the line could do the same. But for now, the Cowboys fans and media who are of the opinion that Dallas should sign Richardson and/or Hurst hold a view not shared by the Cowboys personnel department.”

This report was issued prior to the 2021 draft in which the Cowboys imported three defensive linemen: third-rounders Osa Odighizuwa and Chauncey Golston and sixth-rounder Quinton Bohanna. It was also issued after this year’s signing period in which Dallas added DL Carlos Watkins and Brent Urban to pair with expected starters DeMarcus Lawrence, Trysten Hill, and Neville Gallimore.

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Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL