Will the Cleveland Browns pursue Everson Griffen after restructuring Olivier Vernon’s contract?
With the news of the Cleveland Browns restructuring the contract of Olivier Vernon on Tuesday, it became clear the Browns were no longer going to wait on Jadeveon Clowney to make a decision. The Browns have reportedly made the best offers for Clowney, yet the free agent defensive end has decided to wait to sign a deal.
Because Clowney likely wants a contract in the $15 million or more range, the Browns would have needed to cut Vernon from his $15.5 million non-guaranteed contract to make the potential Clowney signing make sense. But now that Vernon took a slight pay cut to make it a guaranteed contract, having two large contracts at defensive end, not including Myles Garrett, would be difficult for the Browns.
However, even though the Browns are no longer pursuing Clowney, it appears they feel they could have upgraded at defensive end. Although Vernon is a solid starter, he has shown issues with staying healthy, so the Browns could still use more depth behind Vernon and Adrian Clayborn.
One free agent defensive end who is still available is Everson Griffen, who has also waited to sign a deal. Griffen played well in 2019, making 41 total tackles, 11 tackles for loss, eight sacks, and 24 quarterback hits. However, do not expect Griffen to be on the Cleveland Browns defense next season, according to Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot.
"That would have to be a bargain basement thing. They’ve never been interested in him, even though Kevin Stefanski has a history with him in Minnesota. They have showed no interest in signing him. If it happens, it would be one of those last-minute, bargain-basement things.Cabot via 92.3 The Fan’s Ken Carman Show with Anthony Lima"
Griffen seemed like a natural target for the Browns considering he has played his entire 10-year career with the Vikings, coinciding with Stefanski’s time on Minnesota’s staff. However, there may not be much of a connection between the two with Stefanski spending his time on the offensive staff and potentially not having a direct relationship with Griffen.
Although Griffen has been productive the past several years, he is at the back end of his career at 32-years-old. With the Browns building a roster of younger talent, adding a veteran who is nearing the end of his career does not fit how they are putting together their roster. Also, Griffen is likely wanting a contract in the $8 million range, which the Browns would be unlikely to pay for a depth piece with Vernon locked down.
Cleveland may have been pursuing Clowney, but that does not mean they are looking for any defensive end to sign. Clowney is one of the top edge players in the NFL, and he is still just 27-years-old. Signing Clowney provided more upside for the Browns compared to signing an older veteran like Griffen.
A potential signing of Clowney provided the Browns with two defensive ends in Clowney and Myles Garrett that would be hard to contain for several years to come. Griffen does not provide that same potential.
Now that Vernon’s contract has been restructured, the Browns defensive end group looks to be settled for the 2020 season. It may not have the same pop it could have had with Clowney, but it still remains a solid unit for 2020. And it seems certain Griffen will not be part of the group barring any changes.