The Cleveland Browns pursued Tony Jefferson in free agency three years ago, and the new front office should take a look at doing so once again.
The Cleveland Browns new look front office led by Andrew Berry has a lot of familiar faces from the regime prior to John Dorsey's run as general manager. That front office, led by Sashi Brown, was not afraid to offer big money to a certain group of free agents.
One of those free agent targets was Tony Jefferson in 2017. Jefferson was coming off a big season with the Arizona Cardinals and the safety was viewed as one of the top free agents during that offseason.
The Browns were in the running for Jefferson and were perceived to be one of the finalists to land Jefferson. However, Jefferson chose the Browns division rival Baltimore Ravens, signing a four-year, $34 million contract.
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After signing with the Ravens, Jefferson made it well-known that the Browns had offered him more money, but he still decided to choose the Ravens. Jefferson said the reason he passed on the Browns offer was because he doesn't play football for money.
Jefferson has played the last three seasons for the Ravens, but was released on Friday. The 28-year-old played missed 11 games in 2019 due to a knee injury, and his backup Chuck Clark made the most out of his expanded playing time with Jefferson hurt. The Ravens rewarded Clark with an extension on Monday, making Jefferson expendable.
Now a free agent once again, the Browns should once again take a look at signing Jefferson. Although he spurned the Browns in 2017, and was not afraid to make it known to the public, the Browns have holes at both safety spots and are going to need to make additions this offseason. Damarious Randall, Eric Murray, and Juston Burris are all unrestricted free agents this offseason.
Although Jefferson is not entering free agency after having a stellar season like he did in 2017, he is still worth consideration as a key target. In 35 starts with the Ravens, Jefferson compiled 174 total tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, two interceptions, and 11 passes defensed. He may not have lived up to his contract, but he still made solid production.
Jefferson has become the prototypical box safety who can make an impact in the run game, but still has the athleticism to play solid in coverage. He is also been praised as a leader in the Ravens locker room and become the on-field brains of the Ravens defense.
If the Browns want to pursue Jefferson this offseason, it likely would not take a large sum of money like it did in 2017. Jefferson is not entering free agency with the same type of production, he is now at the back-end of his prime, and is also coming off a serious knee injury. It would make sense for Jefferson to want to sign a one-year deal to rebuild his value, but at 28-years-old, it could be his last time for a payday.
It also must be worth noting that most of the key members of Cleveland's current front office was with the Browns when they pursued Jefferson in 2017. It was obvious they liked Jefferson enough back then to offer him a massive contract, so their admiration of Jefferson's talent could cause them to want to pursue him once again.
At a reasonable price, adding Jefferson to Cleveland's defense would make sense. The Browns have the need at the position and a front office who has shown interest in Jefferson before, so it would not be a surprise if the Browns try to enter the pursuit for Jefferson's services.