When Sheldon Richardson was shopping for a new team last offseason, he wanted one thing….to settle down.
“I wanted to find a home and make myself a dominant force for one organization and not just get passed around.”
Since he was let go by the New York Jets in 2016 he bounced around to two teams in two seasons.
No one would sign him to a longer-term deal because of his off the field issues that caused the Jets to release him.
The Browns took a chance on the former Rookie of the Year defensive lineman and signed him to a 3-year $36 million deal.
“They wanted me for more than one year. Definitely was one of my big, big, big, big things, I wanted to get out of the one-year deal thing.”
Richardson’s talent was never in question or the reason he couldn’t stick in one spot very long.
Richardson was a first-round pick of the Jets, Rookie of the Year, and a Pro Bowler while wearing the green and white.
However, the bright lights of NYC may have been too much for him as his early years were fraught with fights on and off the field, and multiple suspensions for on and off-field “activities.”
These issues led the Jets to trade him to the Seahawks where his status as a gun for hire began.
Enter the Cleveland Browns in 2019, looking to make their defensive line a standout unit in the league.
The team started the season with a defensive line of All-Pro Myles Garrett, Pro Bowler Olivier Vernon, and young talent Larry Ogunjobi.
As everyone knows the 2019 Cleveland Browns season hasn’t turned out as everyone imagined.
Disappointing performances for a team projected to be in the playoffs in a few weeks.
On-field and off-field distractions making this version of the Cleveland Browns generally unlikeable.
All of this was capped by Myles Garrett’s “rush of blood to the head” moment when he cracked Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph over the head with his own helmet.
And yet, the man who couldn’t get a long-term contract because of his own mistakes has become a high-quality signing and a leader on this team.
Maybe it was confidence gained from the Browns offering him a long deal, or maybe he’s just grown up.
Either way, Sheldon Richardson has made himself into one of the most important and hard-working players on the Browns team.
#Browns coach Freddie Kitchens said he doesn't know if he's seen a D-lineman play as hard Sheldon Richardson
— Nate Ulrich (@ByNateUlrich) December 19, 2019
This season Richardson has 59 tackles, 4 for loss, 3 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles.
These are solid numbers for an interior lineman.
What’s more impressive is his performances after Myles Garrett was suspended for the remainder of the season.
With their defensive captain gone and a playoff spot still up for grabs, Richardson has starred.
Since Week 11 Richardson has 3 sacks, 12 tackles, and 2 forced fumbles.
His on-field snap percentage has risen from 63% to 80%.
The team needed a leader to emerge on that defensive line, and one has.
This was further exemplified in Sunday’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
Late in the fourth quarter, Sheldrick Redwine went down with an injury.
When Richardson went over to check on his injured comrade, he appeared to get into a verbal altercation with Ravens safety Marcus Peters.
“Redwine had got down. Marcus Peters was standing over him,” Richardson said. “I thought he was like kneeing him in his head or whatever he was doing. He was just playing around, but he can do it with somebody else’s teammate, not mine. That’s pretty much it.”
This altercation earned Richardson a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Head coach Freddie Kitchens was not pleased and left Richardson on the bench for the remainder of the game.
— 92.3 The Fan (@923TheFan) December 22, 2019
However, was that justified?
A young team who has crumbled in the face of adversity all season, who has lacked leadership on the field and on the sidelines, needed this from Richardson.
“(Peters’) foot was by his head. That’s all,” Richardson said. “I don’t know if he was like playing around or not. But he was saying something, and I was like, ‘We got it, fam.’ That’s all. He was talking stuff. So something got said back to him.”
“We got it fam.”
We haven’t heard too much talk like that this season from the men in brown and orange, but when his teammates need him, Richardson showed them he’s got their backs.
As the Browns spend the offseason trying to figure out what and who they are, one thing is certain.
Sheldon Richardson can be counted on when it matters.