Many Browns fans were shocked, including me, when the news broke Friday that the team released veteran defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. After the Clowney signing, it was reported the Browns were still $10.7 million under the cap with an estimated $2 million for their rookie pool.
It would seem they could afford to keep Richardson.
Many speculated Richardson refused a restructure of his contract or another big signing was forthcoming. Both could be true. Richardson is a former first-round pick and probably feels he’s worth the $13 million the Browns were paying him. As for another free agent signing, it’s no secret the Browns would like to acquire another veteran cornerback. Sam Penix (@Sam_Penix) a draft analyst for Pro Football Focus tweeted, ” There are three possibilities regarding the timing of Richardson’s release: 1.A move is coming that requires a significant amount of cap space 2.Clowney’s contract required moving on from Richardson’s deal 3.The addition of Clowney dramatically changed how they view the DT room.” Penix added, “It has to be 3, along with the fact that this team would probably like to keep their core players around long-term while retaining financial flexibility at other spots.”
With the release of Richardson, the Browns now have over $21 million in cap space. Senior NFL reporter for Yahoo Sports Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) tweeted, “On Sheldon Richardson release: #Browns 2022 cap may be a little tight with some planned contract moves. Richardson’s release gives cap flexibility in 2021 (including at trade deadline) or they can roll savings into 2022. It’s chess. Sometimes you sacrifice for long positioning.” With addition of Clowney and the cap savings the release of Richardson provides, it appears Browns GM Andrew Berry is planning for the future. He’s trying to keep the Browns competitive for years to come. Berry also has thought about contract extensions for Baker Mayfield, Denzel Ward, Nick Chubb and Wyatt Teller.
Still, it’s a puzzling move.
Don’t me get wrong, I’m a big fan of Andrew Berry, but it’s still fine to question some of his roster decisions. He’s one of the best GMs in the NFL. This off-season he signed Jadeveon Clowney, Takk McKinley, Malik Jackson, John Johnson, III, Troy Hill and Rashard Higgins to contracts worth about $16 million toward the 2021 salary cap. As a comparison, the Tennessee Titans signed DE/OLB Bud Dupree to a contract worth $17 million toward the 2021 salary cap. Which would you prefer? Remember it’s always smarter to look at the whole forest and not a leaf on a single tree.