With the legal tampering period upon us, right ahead of the beginning of free agency starting on Wednesday at 4 p.m., the Browns have agreed to terms with OT Donald Stephenson. The deal is a one-year, $2.5 million contract. The Browns will be Stephenson’s third team since joining the NFL in 2012. Additionally, in his career, he has played at both tackle positions and at guard.
Stephenson was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 3rd round of the 2012 Draft (before John Dorsey took over). In four seasons in Kansas City, he started 21 games. He was suspended for the first four games of the 2014 season for violating league rules for performance-enhancing drugs. After not getting his 5th-year option picked up by the Chiefs, Stephenson signed with the Denver Broncos in 2016. In that year, he started 12 games at right tackle, but in 2017 he spent most of his time as a backup to Garett Bolles and Allen Barbre.
There are definitely some red-flags, but Stephenson signing with the Browns is a solid move for both parties. For the Browns, Stephenson provides much-needed depth in the offensive line. He will get the opportunity to go up against Shon Coleman for the starting right tackle spot. Additionally, it’s a low-risk contract. He’s signed for one season at a small price, so if he plays well, the new Browns hierarchy will look like geniuses; if not, then he becomes a free agent at the end of next season and we do not need to re-sign him. Finally, with the possible retirement of Joe Thomas another option to play at left tackle is extremely helpful.
For Stephenson, this may be his last chance to show what he can do. Being suspended in 2014 is a strike against him. Also, the fact that he’s on his third team without making much of an impact is another strike against him. This deal is a “prove it” deal for Stephenson. One advantage for him is that although Dorsey did not draft him in Kansas City, their time overlapped. If Stephenson was a major problem it would be hard to imagine Dorsey bringing him into Cleveland.