Olivier Vernon, who is entering the final year of his five-year $85 million contract, is expected to remain with the Cleveland Browns in 2020.
The status of Vernon’s upcoming season is continuing to look positive, as said by first-year Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski on Sunday:
“Obviously, I think Olivier is a really great player, unfortunately he was banged up a little bit. We look forward to all our guys contributing next year.
Stefanski was also asked about the team not selecting any defensive ends or outside linebackers in the draft.
“I wouldn’t say it was a message of any sort, the fact we didn’t draft a defensive end. We’re not in the business of sending messages via the draft. We trusted the board and as the players came up, we made sure that we had the right people for the job.”
Although Stefanski mentioned that no message was sent, the fact that there is no current replacement for Vernon means that he should be a Brown this season.
That is, unless the Browns are interested in a player like Jadeveon Clowney, who played with the Seattle Seahawks in 2019:
Fwiw, Olivier Vernon due $15.5 million next season (none guaranteed). Per Dianna, Clowney willing to go closer to that number, as of last week. https://t.co/DJcoqMLZY8
— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) April 4, 2020
The possibility of Cleveland signing Clowney is a longshot at this point, but with several months before the beginning of the season, there are many options for the Browns.
Meanwhile, the Browns have to determine if they still want his non-guaranteed $15.5 million to be on the books for 2020.
Vernon’s Time With The Browns
Just over one year ago, the New York Giants traded Vernon and Odell Beckham Jr. to the Browns for offensive guard Kevin Zeitler, safety Jabrill Peppers, and first-round and third-round selections in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Unfortunately for the 2019 Browns, Vernon’s knee injury kept him out of six games.
His career-low in games played led radio host Anthony Lima to receive the following text messages at the beginning of the summer:
Texts I’m getting, “Would you rather have Olivier Vernon or Kevin Zeitler in this game?”
— Anthony Lima (@SportsBoyTony) December 1, 2019
On March 18, 2020, Mike Garafolo reported that the Browns were not releasing Vernon.
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) March 18, 2020
Just one month after the Browns were reluctant to release Vernon, the decision seems to be the same.
Is There Another Option for the Browns at the DE Position?
There is a strong case for Cleveland to keep Vernon, but the Browns have the opportunity to go elsewhere.
In February, Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com speculated that Vernon “probably” will not be playing for the Browns in 2020:
“The Browns will probably be looking to replace defensive end Olivier Vernon, who’s due to make $15.25 million next season. They won’t pay him that much, so he’ll either be gone or asked to take a paycut. If he’s gone, Griffen would be one option. An 11th-year pro, he had eight sacks in 2019 and has notched 74.5 in his 147 games.”
Cabot brings up an interesting option for Cleveland.
There was a recent report that has defensive end Everson Griffen on his way out of Minnesota:
Source close to the situation said free-agent DE Everson Griffen is “probably” gone from #Vikings but that it’s not out of the possibility he could re-sign if Vikings don’t get a pass rusher they like in draft. Griffen last month put out a statement that he wouldn’t be back.
— Chris Tomasson (@christomasson) April 21, 2020
It remains to be seen if Minnesota is officially moving on from Griffen and the same goes for Cleveland and Vernon.
Should the Browns Bring Back Vernon for His Second Season in Cleveland?
Vernon played all 16 games in each of his first five NFL seasons.
In his final two years with the Giants, they may have known that Vernon was on his last legs.
They may have wanted to include him in the trade because he played just 12 games in 2017 and 11 contests in 2018.
In 2019, Vernon played fewer than 50 percent of Cleveland’s defensive snaps.
Although he played more than half of the team’s games, he played just 509 snaps, his fewest since his rookie season with the Miami Dolphins.
If he returns for 2020, the Browns will have to think and hope that he is fully healthy entering the season.