Cleveland Browns, NFL Free Agency

Cleveland Browns sign Sheldon Richardson: Grade, reaction, analysis

Sheldon Richardson will sign a three-year deal with the Cleveland Browns, and here’s our grade on the move.

A year ago around this time, with any multi-year offers that may have been out there apparently not to his liking, Sheldon Richardson bet on himself by inking a one-year deal, $8 million with the Minnesota Vikings. Now, as first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Richardson will sign a three-year deal with the Cleveland Browns.

Richardson had a solid season in 2018, ranking 14th among interior defensive lineman in quarterback pressures (via Pro Football Focus) with 4.5 sacks and 49 total tackles (six tackles for loss. Any questions about Richardson, after some off-field trouble early in his career with the New York Jets, can now be set aside.

Contract Details

According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Richardson will get $36 million on his three-year deal with Cleveland. Schefter added Richardson is getting $21.5 million in guaranteed money, but with $39 million in total value.

National Reaction

While the Vikings lose another defensive starter early in free agency, the deal is being regarded as a win for the Browns.

The Browns finished in the bottom half of the league with 37 sacks last year, led by Myles Garrett’s 13.5 as no one else tallied more than 5.5 (defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi). But they’ve now added defensive end Olivier Vernon via a trade with the New York Giants, and Richardson will fortify the middle of the defensive line as a top-tier three-technique for new defensive coordinator Steve Wilks.

Simply put, Cleveland was a sieve against the run last season. They finished 28th in yards allowed (135.2 per game), while allowing the second-most rushing touchdowns in the league (20) and coming in toward the bottom in yards per carry allowed (4.7). Richardson’ resume of productivity as a pass rusher and run defender seems perfectly suited to help the Browns.

The Browns have clearly identified a weakness, and invested heavily to address it. Richardson is still just 28 years old, and he came out nicely after taking it a prove-it deal a year ago.

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