The Cleveland Browns, like every NFL team, had tough roster decisions to make in the 2021 offseason.
Though the Browns financially are in a decent position in this salary cap crunched year, they still had to let good players go for financial reasons.
One of those salary cap casualties was defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson.
Sheldon Richardson was not messing around. 😳 pic.twitter.com/hbIZuRXCJF
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) September 24, 2020
Though Richardson is a great player, the Browns did not make a mistake letting him go.
Here are two reasons why.
2. Browns Have Players Nearing End Of Their Rookie Contracts
Because the Browns are a young team, this situation was bound to happen.
They have four starting players whose rookie contracts are expiring in the next two seasons.
Because Mayfield and Ward were first-round draft picks in 2018, the Browns bought themselves a little more time by exercising the fifth-year options of their rookie contracts.
However, if both players are retained beyond the 2022 season, the Browns will need to pay big bucks.
The same is true for Chubb and Teller after this season.
Richardson’s contract with the Browns, signed in 2019, was a three-year deal worth $36 million.
By releasing Richardson in 2021, the Browns saved about $11 million which could be earmarked for extensions for any of the above four players, most likely Nick Chubb.
RB Nick Chubb, likely the next candidate for a contract extension with the #Browns, should have his eyes set on Aaron Jones' 4 yr, $48M deal with Green Bay.
— Spotrac (@spotrac) June 19, 2021
1. The Browns Roster Is Deep At Defensive Tackle.
The Browns had a fantastic run in 2020.
It was quite unexpected given the disappointment of 2019.
The 11-5 record culminated in a trip to the playoffs where they lost to the eventual AFC Champion Kansas City Chiefs.
If the Browns had an Achilles heel in 2020, it was on defense.
In addition to the injuries and COVID-19 issues all NFL teams had to deal with, it seemed like the Browns defense lacked depth and was prone to giving up big plays.
During the 2021 offseason, Browns GM Andrew Berry was motivated to improve the defensive roster.
As a result, the Browns now have a full roster of defensive tackles comprised of returning players, free agents, and draft picks.
— Kayla Harvey (@kaylalharvey) June 17, 2021
- Andrew Billings
- Sheldon Day
- Jordan Elliott
- Malik Jackson
- Malik McDowell
- Damion Square
- Tommy Togiai
- Marvin Wilson
Though Richardson is a great player, the Browns have enough veteran leadership and depth at defensive tackle for 2021.
#Browns DT Malik Jackson in @923TheFan "(They) did a good job of bringing good guys in here. Guys that aren't going to be scared of competition, threatened about somebody taking their spot. It's the team's job to get younger, faster guys in the room, it's my job to keep my spot"
— Keith Britton (@KeithBritton86) June 18, 2021
Richardson was a solid performer for the Browns.
In two seasons with the team, he had 78 solo tackles and 16 quarterback hits.
He also had 7 1/2 quarterback sacks.
Richardson played for the Vikings for one season in 2018.
Sheldon Richardson valuation in 2020 per OTC: $10,814,000
Max cap hit with the #Vikings in 2021: $4.35M
— Sean Borman (@SeanBormanNFL) June 15, 2021
He should be an impact player for the Vikings at a bargain price point; the Vikings signed him to a one-year $3.6 million deal with incentives that could pay him as much as $4.35 million.
The 2021 Browns roster is loaded with talent and great expectations.
Letting Richardson go was an unfortunate byproduct of the current NFL climate; however, the Browns believe they have the position covered.