CLEVELAND — Browns general manager John Dorsey has built a fearsome front on defence.
One week after acquiring end Olivier Vernon in a trade, Cleveland added an inside presence to its line by agreeing with free agent tackle Sheldon Richardson on a three-year, $39 million contract, a person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Richardson, who has played with three other teams since 2013 and been suspended twice by the NFL, will receive $21.5 million guaranteed, said the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because league rules prohibit teams from announcing signings until 4 p.m. EDT Wednesday.
ESPN first reported the agreement.
The imminent signing of the 28-year-old Richardson gives the Browns a potentially menacing front four as he’ll play alongside Pro Bowl end Myles Garrett, who had 13 1/2 sacks last season and has 20 in 27 career games.
Vernon, who didn’t live up to expectations the past few seasons, gives Cleveland another threat off the edge, and Larry Ogunjobi emerged last season as a dependable run stopper.
Cleveland’s defence ranked No. 30 overall last season and had 37 sacks, and Dorsey has made upgrading the front seven an off-season priority.
He’s done it, and Richardson’s addition will give Dorsey more flexibility heading into next month’s draft. The Browns have the No. 17 overall pick and many experts had the team focused on adding a tackle in that spot from what’s considered a deep class.
It’s possible Dorsey will use the selection — Cleveland currently has 10 picks in 2019 — to get another playmaker for quarterback Baker Mayfield. The Browns need a wide receiver who can stretch the defence and there are some highly regarded players who will be available.
Another possibility is through trade, and speculation surrounding New York Giants star Odell Beckham Jr. and the Browns won’t go away. Dorsey has a good rapport with Giants GM Dave Gettleman, who has repeatedly said he didn’t sign Beckham to a five-year, $90 million extension last August to trade him.
Beckham teamed with Browns receiver Jarvis Landry at LSU and the two have worked out in the past with Mayfield.
Richardson will help the Browns get to the quarterback and plug the middle. The 6-foot-3, 295-pounder spent last season with Minnesota, where he had 49 tackles and 4 1/2 sacks in 16 games. In six seasons as a pro, he has 23 1/2 sacks and 195 tackles in 87 games.
Richardson was the AP’s Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2013.
While talented, he has also run into some trouble.
Richardson was suspended for the Jets’ first four games in 2015 season for violating the substance-abuse policy for testing positive for marijuana. The league also suspended him for the first game in 2016 under its personal-conduct policy after he tried to outrun police in St. Louis, driving his Bentley at 143 mph before being stopped.