Home » Cleveland Browns » Does cutting Sheldon Richardson make some sense for the Browns? Terry Pluto

Does cutting Sheldon Richardson make some sense for the Browns? Terry Pluto

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CLEVELAND, Ohio – When I heard the Browns cut Sheldon Richardson, I didn’t like it.

But I also was warned by an NFL executive who knows how the analytics-based teams operate to expect something to happen with the veteran defensive tackle. At the very least, the team would try to rework his contract.

Apparently, they couldn’t figure out how to make that work for both sides. In the end, the 30-year-old Richardson was chewing up too much of the salary cap. His number was $13.7 million, according to overthecap.com. Furthermore, teams such as the Browns don’t like to pay such sums for defensive tackles unless that player is an All-Pro.

The Browns value speed on defense. It’s why they signed Jadeveon Clowney. They are hoping he can stay healthy and not only play defensive end, but also on other parts of the line.

One football man was explaining it to me this way: The Browns could go with three defensive ends at times – Myles Garrett, Takk McKinley and Clowney. They signed Malik Jackson, a defensive tackle who has played like a defensive end in certain formations.

His point was to stop thinking the Browns have the standard 4-3 defense. They will have two linebackers and three safeties on the field most of the time. It’s why the front office put big money ($37 million over three years) into safety John Johnson III. It’s why they made Grant Delpit a second-round pick last year.

It’s also why I wouldn’t be surprised if the Browns draft a safety somewhere in the middle rounds.

They like safeties. They like linebackers who can play a bit like safeties, at least in terms of speed. They like pass-rushers and cornerbacks.

That’s where the salary cap money goes on defense.

Defensive tackle Jordan Elliott will have a chance to see more action. Matt Starkey, Cleveland Browns

MAKING MONEY CHOICES

The NFL has a tight salary cap, and Browns fans should be happy about that. The league’s salary cap gives Cleveland, Green Bay, Kansas City and other small-market teams an equal chance to knock off big market franchises such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, etc.

The salary cap forces every team to make tough choices, often cutting a solid veteran such as Richardson who had become too expensive.

Before the Richardson decision, the Browns had about $11 million left on the salary cap. They need to hold $9 million for signing rookies. Things were getting very tight.

Richardson being cut added another $12 million to the salary cap. It gives veteran Andrew Billings and second-year player Jordan Elliott a chance to combine with newcomer Malik Jackson (signed for $3.7 million) if the Browns want to play two traditional tackles.

According to overthecap.com, the Browns are now $20.9 million under the salary cap.

THINKING AHEAD

The Andrew Berry front office hasn’t made any big mistakes since taking over 15 months ago. Most decisions have been sound or even exceptional. It’s clear coach Kevin Stefanski and Berry are working together well, a key to setting up long-term success.

It’s possible the Browns have targeted some defensive tackles in the draft. Or they may have their eye on a veteran who has been cut or is likely to be a salary cap victim.

Draft day deals are another possibility.

I’m not a huge fan of the Clowney signing because of his durability issues, missing eight games last season. Just as I do think the Browns could end up missing Richardson at some point in 2021.

But I also have come to respect what this front office is doing, especially their planning. They are already trying to position their cap for 2022. That’s when major pay raises will be going to Baker Mayfield, Denzel Ward and Nick Chubb (assuming they are able to re-sign him).

Rather than make any significant conclusion about this move, I’d rather wait until after the draft (and other possible moves) to see what the roster looks like without Richardson.

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