Olivier Vernon

Browns, Olivier Vernon Rework Contract

Olivier Vernon is staying put. The Browns worked out a new deal with the defensive end to turn his $15.25MM non-guaranteed pact into $11MM guaranteed with the potential to earn an additional $2MM via incentives (Twitter link via Field Yates of ESPN.com). 

[RELATED: Raiders Enter Jadeveon Clowney Mix]

Vernon’s guarantees come in the form of a $3.75M base salary, $7MM signing bonus, and a $250K workout bonus. The new deal also ensures that he’ll be eligible for free agency following the 2020 season. Vernon now has a “no-tag” clause, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter), giving him an opportunity to cash in all over again.

The Browns have been in talks with Jadeveon Clowney for months, but they’re now poised to stick with Vernon as their starting DE, opposite Myles Garrett. Last we heard, Clowney rejected the Browns’ offer of a one-year deal in the $15MM range. Instead of bumping the offer up towards Clowney’s $17-$18MM asking price, they’ve retained Vernon for far less.

Vernon posted just 3.5 sacks last year, but the advanced metrics were fairly fond of his work. And, before Vernon came to Cleveland, he managed 22 sacks over the course of three years with the Giants, despite a good deal of missed games. In his last Giants campaign, he averaged four pressures per contest – the Browns would be very happy with a reprise of that in 2020.

There’s now one less landing spot for Clowney, though Jon Gruden and the Raiders have reportedly come into the mix. Meanwhile, Clowney is far from the only big-name DE on the open marketEverson Griffen, Markus Golden, Ezekiel Ansah, and Michael Bennett are still available for teams in need of edge help.

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AFC Rumors: Slay, Anderson, Browns

Not only were the Raiders in on just about every big-name free agent cornerback, they pursued a Darius Slay deal as well. In addition to offers for Byron Jones and Chris Harris, and what turned out to be a failed deal with Eli Apple, the Raiders kicked the tires on a Slay trade with the Lions, Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area notes. A trade target of multiple teams before the 2019 deadline, Slay ended up going to the Eagles for just third- and fifth-round picks. Of course, it also cost the Eagles $30MM fully guaranteed — third-most among corners.

The Raiders’ pursuit of 2020’s group of available corners points to them giving strong consideration to adding one with one of their two first-round picks, and Bair adds there is a “strong belief” corner is a high Raider priority entering the draft. As it stands now, Las Vegas is understaffed at the position.

Here is the latest from around the AFC:

  • For weeks, rumors of a JetsRobby Anderson reunion circulated. Anderson said the Jets wanted him back and that he wanted to stay. The team was reported to be eyeing an Anderson agreement — but only at a price. Anderson instead signed a two-year, $20MM Panthers deal. A report emerged this week about the four-year veteran turning down a four-year, $40MM Jets offer, but Anderson (via The Athletic’s Joseph Person, subscription required) denied such a proposal occurred. The Jets moved quickly to replace Anderson with Breshad Perriman for one year and $6MM. They will likely enter the draft with a big receiver need.
  • The Browns have shopped Olivier Vernon in trades and, as of late February, were not expected to pay him the $15.25MM salary he’s due in the final year of his contract. But a change of thinking may have occurred. The Browns are interested in Jadeveon Clowney, but unless that partnership happens, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer expects Vernon to be back with the Browns in 2020. The Browns still have Myles Garrett on his rookie deal, and Cabot adds that — be it Clowney or Vernon — they are willing to carry a big salary at defensive end next season. Vernon struggled during an injury-plagued 2019 in Cleveland, registering just 3.5 sacks and tallying 11 quarterback hits.
  • Bills GM Brandon Beane sidestepped a question centered around Stefon Diggs‘ satisfaction with his contract. On a $14.4MM-per-year deal, the Buffalo-bound wideout is the NFL’s 13th-highest-paid player at his position. Four years remain on the deal.

Browns Interested In Jadeveon Clowney

The Browns have entered the enduring Jadeveon Clowney sweepstakes. Not only is Cleveland now involved in the Clowney pursuit, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com reports some around the league believe the Browns have come closer to a Clowney deal than other suitors thus far (Twitter link).

The Seahawks have been the team most closely connected to Clowney this offseason. While Seattle has tried to make a viable offer to keep the three-time Pro Bowler, Fowler adds that the team’s offer has not satisfied the Clowney camp to this point.

A Clowney-Browns scenario would be interesting given the team’s defensive end depth. The Browns already employ Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon. A Clowney deal would point to Vernon being on the outs.

In late February, Vernon was linked to being a candidate for a pay cut or release. In the final year of his Giants-constructed contract, the veteran defensive end is set to earn $15.25MM. The Browns are not expected to pay him this much, but the former Dolphins and Giants pass rusher remains on the roster. The Browns have shopped Vernon, Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal adds, but any deal would likely be contingent on Cleveland picking up some of his salary.

This week, both the Jets and Titans re-emerged as Clowney suitors. The former No. 1 overall pick also dropped his price off the $20MM-per-year mark. However, the Seahawks’ proposal likely lands between $13-$15MM per year.

Cleveland’s $43MM-plus in cap space leads the NFL by a wide margin. Seattle currently holds less than $15MM in cap room.

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Latest On Browns’ DE Olivier Vernon

Browns defensive end Olivier Vernon came to the team last year as part of the trade that brought WR Odell Beckham to Cleveland. Vernon is under contract through 2020, but his future with the Browns is uncertain at the moment.

Advanced metrics were reasonably fond of Vernon’s play during his first year with the Browns — though he posted just 3.5 sacks — but he is due a hefty $15.25MM salary next season. Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com says the Browns are not going to pay him that much, so he will either be released or asked to take a pay cut.

And the Browns do have plenty of leverage to demand a pay reduction. Vernon will almost certainly not fetch a deal on the open market that would pay him $15.25MM next year, and Cleveland can clear that entire figure off its books with no dead money penalty by cutting him. Plus, although Vernon did earn a Pro Bowl nod with the Giants in 2018, he has not played a full 16-game slate since 2016. He has missed at least four games in each of the past three years due to various injuries.

But cutting Vernon would leave a noticeable void in the team’s front seven, so a reworked deal may be the best course of action for both sides. If the Browns do part ways with the Miami product, Cabot says Everson Griffen, who recently opted out of his deal with the Vikings, could be a potential replacement. Griffen and new Cleveland HC Kevin Stefanski are obviously familiar with each other from their time in Minnesota.

In other Browns news, Cabot says she expects new GM Andrew Berry to use his extra draft capital to pursue trades for big-name players and that the team will scour the trade and free agent markets for offensive tackles.

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Injury Notes: Vernon, Falcons, Njoku, Cole

With defensive lineman Myles Garrett and Larry Objunjobi suspended for this week’s matchup against the Bengals, the Browns were hoping to invite starting end Olivier Vernon back into the lineup after missing the team’s previous two games with a knee injury. However, according to Mary Kay Kabot of Cleveland.com, Vernon has been ruled out for Sunday’s contest, leaving Sheldon Richardson as the team’s only primary starter along the defensive front.

It has been a chaotic season for Cleveland, reaching a climax in last Thursday’s on-field fight with the Steelers. Hoping to put that in the rear-view mirror the Browns will have to rely heavily on their depth to build some positive momentum.

Here’s some more injury notes from around the NFL:

  • The Falcons will be without two of their primary offensive weapons this weekend. Running back Devonta Freeman and tight end Austin Hooper are both out for this Sunday’s game alongside rotational defensive back Kemal Ishmael, according to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitutional.
  • Browns tight end David Njoku will not return this week from the injured reserve, according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Njoku, who has been rehabbing a wrist injury, returned to practice this week, but is not quite ready for game action.
  • Texans linebacker Dylan Cole is out for the season with a torn ACL, according to Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle. Cole served as Houston’s primary backup at two linebacker positions and played a major role in the team’s special teams. He played in 11 games and recorded 16 tackles on the season. Going forward, the Texans will need to sure up their depth on special teams and on the second level of their defense.

Final Terms Of Odell Beckham Jr. Trade

The trades of Odell Beckham Jr. and Olivier Vernon were originally reported as separate moves, but the Browns and Giants have have each announced the acquisitions as one large transaction. Additionally, as Art Stapleton of NorthJersey.com first reported, the fourth- and fifth-round picks that were originally part of the Vernon/Kevin Zeitler trade are no longer involved in the swap.

Here are the full terms of the stunning trade:

Browns acquire:

Giants acquire:

Browns, Giants Alter Zeitler/Vernon Trade

When the Browns and Giants agreed to swap guard Kevin Zeitler and defensive end Olivier Vernon earlier this week, the two clubs also decided to trade draft picks: Cleveland was set to give up a fifth-round pick (No. 155) to New York, while Big Blue send a fourth-round pick (No. 132) to the Browns. Now, following the deal that will send Odell Beckham Jr. to Cleveland, the two teams have agreed to revise the Zeitler/Brown trade.

The pick swap will no longer occur, according to Art Stapleton of NorthJersey.com (Twitter link). Instead, Zeitler will simply be traded straight up for Vernon, while OBJ will go to the Browns in a separate move. However, you can look at both swaps together as such: Beckham and Vernon for Zeitler, Peppers, No. 17 overall and No. 95 overall.

It’s unclear as to why the Giants and Browns have reached this agreement. The return for Beckham has been widely panned, so it’s possible the Giants asked for the Vernon/Zeitler pick swap to be eliminated as something of a face-saving move (although undoing a 23-spot drop in the draft probably isn’t worth all that much).

Giants To Trade Olivier Vernon To Browns

The Giants are trading Olivier Vernon to the Browns, according to Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter). In return, the Giants will receive guard Kevin Zeitler (Twitter link). The Giants had originally agreed to send the No. 132 pick to Cleveland, with the Browns shipping No. 155 back to New York, but the two side have since canceled that portion of the swap.

The deal gives the Browns a formidable defensive end combo between Vernon and Myles Garrett. The swap also allows the Browns to focus on other areas of need next week, rather than overpaying for valued edge rushers.

Vernon inked a massive five-year, $85MM deal with the Giants in 2016. A few years later, the Giants found themselves looking to unload him or potentially release him outright. Vernon is still productive, but he no longer profiles as one of the best edge rushers in the NFL. Even at his time of signing, his contract was a function of an inflated pass rushing market that continues to be player friendly.

Vernon is due $15.5MM in each of the two remaining years on his deal. The Browns had roughly $77MM in cap space entering Friday, but it’s not immediately clear whether the Giants will be chipping in towards what Vernon is owed. Such an arrangement is not unheard of. In the Case Keenum trade between the Broncos and Redskins, for example, the Broncos agreed to pay half of Keenum’s 2019 salary.

Vernon, 28, gave the Giants a career-high 8.5 sacks in his first season with the club. He’s continued to get to the QB with 22 sacks over the course of three years, but injuries have cost him nine games over the last two campaigns. Last year, he averaged four pressures per contest in eleven games.

The Giants, meanwhile, pick up one of the league’s best interior lineman in the trade. Zeitler was Pro Football Focus’ No. 6 ranked guard last season and is midway through a five-year, $60MM deal. The 29-year-old is set to make $10MM this season, though much of that hit will be absorbed by the Browns.

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Giants To Keep Olivier Vernon?

The Giants are leaning toward keeping linebacker Olivier Vernon, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Previously, it was believed that Vernon would either be traded or released outright. 

Vernon inked a massive five-year, $85MM deal with the Giants in 2016, under their old regime. The new regime explored the notion of moving Vernon in exchange for draft capital, but his contract is likely a barrier to getting a deal done.

Vernon, 28, gave the Giants a career-high 8.5 sacks in his first season with the club. He’s continued to get to the QB with 22 sacks over the course of three years, but injuries have cost him nine games over the last two campaigns. Last year, he averages four pressures per contest in eleven games.

Vernon is set to carry cap hits of $15.5MM in each of the next two seasons. Vernon would result in $11.5MM in cap savings, but would also saddle the team with $8MM in dead money. Meanwhile, productive edge rushers are hard to find, so moving on from Vernon doesn’t make a ton of sense on the whole.

Keeping Vernon will also give the Giants some consistency on defense, which they’ll need after moving on from star safety Landon Collins.

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Extra Points: Tags, Haskins, Jets, Bucs

Both the Chiefs and Texans may be in for grievances. Both teams used their franchise tags on edge defenders — Dee Ford and Jadeveon Clowney, respectively — and each team officially classified its tag recipient as a linebacker. The linebacker tag comes at a $15.443MM price. Both players have cases to be tagged as defensive ends, with Clowney frequently lining up as a lineman for Houston and Ford set to play end in Kansas City’s new 4-3 scheme. The defensive end price: $17.128MM — the second-highest tag figure. Clowney already received just more than $1MM from the Texans to resolve a dispute about what position he was categorized as in regards to his fifth-year option. That may go toward preempting a grievance here, but it’s not certain. A Ford grievance seems likely. He spends more time rushing from the defensive end position in the Chiefs’ sub-packages. Terrell Suggs filed a grievance about a linebacker tag in 2008, and an arbitrator ruled the parties to split the difference between the linebacker and end tags. But this is a case-by-case process.

Here is the latest from the pre-free agency news cycle:

  • While Janoris Jenkins is set to avoid cap-casualty status, another member of the Giants‘ 2016 free agency defender splurge may not. Whether Olivier Vernon is traded or cut, the veteran edge rusher is a near-certainty to be jettisoned from the Giants’ defense, Tom Rock of Newsday notes. As is the case with Landon Collins‘ exit, a Vernon departure would create a massive need on a New York defense that has several need areas.
  • Dwayne Haskins has been a popular mock pick for the Giants, and Ralph Vacchiano of SNY notes Big Blue indeed has been “all over” the Ohio State-developed quarterback, researching his viability as Eli Manning‘s successor. Dave Gettleman does not plan to turn the keys over to a later-round pick, with Vacchiano adding the heir apparent will be a first-round choice. So if the Giants balk at a passer with another top-10 pick, they may be willing to roll the dice one more time and wait until 2020.
  • Mike Maccagnan has said the Jets will be aggressive in free agency, which would make sense given the team’s plethora of needs and $100MM-plus in cap space. Gang Green will attempt to find a center and a guard in free agency, per Vacchiano. This comes after the Jets cut 2018 center Spencer Long. There are some interesting center options, with Matt Paradis and Mitch Morse set to hit the market. At guard, there aren’t as many younger free agents; the top options are deeper into their careers.
  • Donovan Smith‘s 2019 cap figure will still be hefty, according to Jenna Laine of ESPN.com, who notes the Buccaneers‘ left tackle will carry a $12.5MM figure next season. Although it is not the $14.1MM figure Smith was briefly attached to via the franchise tag, that is still a large number for a team that does not have much cap space. Smith’s 2020 and ’21 base salaries will be $14.5MM and $14.25MM, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times tweets.
  • Former Bears head coach Mark Trestman will return to coach in the States. He’s been hired as HC of the XFL’s Tampa Bay team. He joins Bob Stoops, Jim Zorn and Pep Hamilton as coaches to have signed on with the rebooting league. An acclaimed CFL coach prior to his two-season Bears stay, Trestman went back to Canada and was the Toronto Argonauts’ HC for the past two seasons.