Olivier Vernon

2021 Cap Space For All 32 NFL Teams

There are still plenty of quality free agents left on the board as we look ahead to training camp. Cornerback Steven Nelson, tackle Russell Okung, and longtime Legion of Boom leader Richard Sherman headline the list, along with accomplished edge rushers like Justin Houston, Melvin Ingram, and Olivier Vernon. That list will only grow larger, of course, as more teams shed veterans to redirect their funds elsewhere.

With that in mind, here’s a look at every NFL team’s cap situation, starting with the league-leading Jaguars:

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars — $32.7MM
  2. Denver Broncos — $28.9MM
  3. New York Jets — $28.5MM
  4. Cleveland Browns — $20.6MM
  5. Los Angeles Chargers — $19.9MM
  6. Detroit Lions — $17.9MM
  7. San Francisco 49ers — $17.8MM
  8. Cincinnati Bengals — $17.4MM
  9. Washington Football Team — $16.7MM
  10. Indianapolis Colts— $14.3MM
  11. Carolina Panthers— $14.3MM
  12. Minnesota Vikings — $13.5MM
  13. Pittsburgh Steelers — $13.1MM
  14. New England Patriots — $13.1MM
  15. New Orleans Saints — $11.4MM
  16. Arizona Cardinals — $11.3MM
  17. Buffalo Bills — $10.5MM
  18. Baltimore Ravens — $8.8MM
  19. Atlanta Falcons — $8.6MM
  20. Seattle Seahawks — $8.3MM
  21. Tennessee Titans — $8.3MM
  22. Kansas City Chiefs — $7.9MM
  23. Los Angeles Rams — $7MM
  24. Chicago Bears — $6MM
  25. Dallas Cowboys — $6MM
  26. Miami Dolphins — $5.3MM
  27. Green Bay Packers — $5MM
  28. Houston Texans — $5MM
  29. Las Vegas Raiders — $3.3MM
  30. Philadelphia Eagles — $3.2MM
  31. New York Giants — $2.4MM
  32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — $489K

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top Remaining Pass Rushers

A team can never have too many pass rushers. Even as quarterbacks around the league try to get the ball out of their hands more quickly, the emphasis that most offenses put on their aerial attacks ensure that quality edge defenders will continue to be among the NFL’s most desirable commodities and, therefore, among the highest earners. As we sit in the middle of the lull between OTAs/minicamp and the start of training camp, let’s take a look at where things stand with a few of the highest-profile pass rushers that are still on the market.

  1. Justin Houston: Houston, one of the most fearsome pass rushers in the league during his heyday with the Chiefs, just finished up a two-year contract with the Colts. He is no longer a First Team All-Pro talent, but he was still plenty productive in Indianapolis, at least from a raw statistic standpoint. He averaged 9.5 sacks per year over his two Colts campaigns, and though Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics were not high on his work in 2020 – he received middling grades in both run defense and pass rush – the 32-year-old would be an asset to most any pass rushing corps. The only two teams really connected to him this offseason, the Ravens and the incumbent Colts, both added edge defenders in the first round of this year’s draft (Indy also invested a second-round choice on DE Dayo Odeyingbo). However, Baltimore’s first-round edge, Odafe Oweh, may be a little green, and the club lost Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue to free agency this offseason. As such, the Ravens may still be in the mix, and there are surely other teams monitoring the situation.
  2. Melvin Ingram: Like Houston, Ingram is 32, but unlike Houston, he is dealing with some health concerns. The longtime Charger earned three consecutive Pro Bowl nods from 2017-19, but knee problems limited him to just seven games in 2020. In those seven contests, Ingram failed to record a single sack, and given the lack of reporting on his knee, it’s fair to wonder if he is 100% healthy. He took a pre-draft visit with the Chiefs, and KC might still be interested, especially given Frank Clark’s recent legal trouble. Ingram also visited with the Dolphins after the draft, and while Miami selected uber-talented edge defender Jaelan Phillips with the No. 18 overall pick, the club also released LB and locker room favorite Kyle Van Noy. Plus, Phillips has a troubling medical history of his own, so there could be room in South Beach for another established pass rusher with leadership abilities. It is encouraging that Ingram’s PFF pass-rushing score of 76.3 was a top-20 mark, even if the sample size of snaps was comparatively small.
  3. Everson Griffen: Griffen’s free agency stay in 2020 lasted until August, when he inked a one-year deal with the Cowboys. Even though Dallas was still very much in the running for the historically weak NFC East, the club dealt Griffen to the Lions in advance of the trade deadline. The four-time Pro Bowler tallied six sacks across 14 games split between Dallas and Detroit, earning a 73.6 pass-rushing mark from PFF in the process (good for 25th out of 108 qualifiers). Now 33, Griffen is probably best utilized as a situational pass rusher at this point, but he could do well in such a role. While there has been no reported interest in his services this year, his recent history suggests that he is content to wait until late summer for the right opportunity to present itself.
  4. Olivier Vernon: Vernon, who will turn 31 in October, came to the Browns in 2019 as part of the blockbuster Odell Beckham trade. He lost six games to injury in his first Cleveland season and managed only 3.5 sacks. He was a candidate to be traded or released last offseason as the team flirted with Jadeveon Clowney, but ultimately he agreed to a paycut to remain with the Browns for 2020, the last year of his previous contract. He picked up nine sacks in 14 games – he has not played a full 16-game slate since 2016 – and while three of those sacks came against an injury-ravaged Eagles O-line, advanced metrics continue to be high on him. Pro Football Focus considered him the 20th-best edge player in the league last year, a grade that incorporated identical (and strong) 71.6 marks for his run defense and his pass rushing acumen. Unfortunately, he suffered a torn Achilles in the regular season finale, which is probably why there have been no reports of interest in him to date (and why he is not higher on this list). Depending on his prognosis, he could be an intriguing late summer or in-season add for any number of clubs.
  5. Bruce Irvin: Irvin suffered a torn ACL in Week 2 of the 2020 season, which he and the Seahawks had hoped would represent a successful second stint in Seattle. The ‘Hawks made him the No. 15 overall pick of the 2012 draft, which was generally viewed as a reach at the time, but the West Virginia product has put together a lengthy and productive NFL career. In his lone season with the Panthers in 2019, Irvin posted a career-high 8.5 sacks, and before his two-game campaign last year, he hadn’t posted a single-season sack total of less than 5.5 since his second pro season in 2013. At 33, he is the oldest player on this list, but assuming he has not faced any setbacks in his recovery, he should be ready to roll by the start of the 2021 season, or close to it. He might have a hard time getting much by way of guaranteed money, but he should certainly have an opportunity to continue his playing career if he wants to. But he may not want to. In March, Irvin posted a tweet that said, “I think it’s time,” which many obviously construed to be a hint that he was hanging up the cleats. There hasn’t been anything concrete, though, so his playing status is still unclear.

Browns Place Olivier Vernon On IR

The Browns’ season will continue. Unfortunately, for Olivier Vernon, the season is over. The defensive end has torn his Achilles, head coach Kevin Stefanski announced.

The veteran went down late in the season finale and had to be helped off the field. After a sideline check, he was carted to the locker room, signaling something serious. Vernon is now set for surgery and an uncertain future. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent in March, thanks to the reworking of his deal that bars the Browns from tagging him.

Vernon posted just 3.5 sacks in 2019, 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. This year, he stepped up things up with nine sacks, his highest posting since 2013. He’s been red hot too — all of his sacks came after Week 8.

With the Steelers on the horizon, the Browns will be banking even more on star Myles Garrett for pressure on the edge.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Trade Notes: Harris, Texans, Geno, Browns

After trading Yannick Ngakoue, the Vikings appear to be reopening the door to dealing their franchise player. Anthony Harris is again available, per Albert Breer of SI.com. The Vikings discussed at least one tag-and-trade deal involving the 2019 breakout player-turned-tag recipient this offseason but moved forward with Harris as a starter for the third season. The price was believed to be a Day 2 pick at that point. Harris has more than half of his $11.4MM tag salary due. Harris joins safety mate Harrison Smith, tight end Kyle Rudolph and left tackle Riley Reiff as available Viking veterans.

Here is more from the trade market, with five days to go until the deadline:

  • We have heard trade rumors surrounding the bulk of the Texans‘ receiving corps. The Packers, among others, inquired about Will Fuller; Randall Cobb and Brandin Cooks have also come up in talks. The Texans are prepared to part with any of their wideouts — for the right offer, of course. Every Texan except Deshaun Watson, J.J. Watt, Laremy Tunsil and right tackle Tytus Howard is available, Breer adds. Fuller and Kenny Stills are on expiring contracts; Cobb is signed through 2022; Cooks through ’23.
  • NFL INT leader Xavien Howard has surfaced as a name to watch ahead of the deadline. While the Dolphins have fielded calls on the fifth-year cornerback, they have not received a firm offer, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald notes. The Dolphins also appear dead-set against dealing Howard, with Jackson adding that it would likely take multiple first-round picks (an unrealistic ask) for Miami to consider a deal. Howard is in the first season of a five-year, $75MM contract.
  • The Bengals traded all-time sack leader Carlos Dunlap to the Seahawks, and teams are wondering if the franchise’s No. 2 all-time sacker (Geno Atkins) is available. Teams have contacted the Bengals on the 11th-year defensive tackle but have been told he is not being traded, Breer notes. Atkins is signed through 2022, and although he has voiced frustration about his role, the Bengals will hang onto the perennial Pro Bowler.
  • In the thick of the AFC playoff race at 5-2, the Browns may still be dangling Olivier Vernon. Although the veteran defensive end came off Cleveland’s trade block this summer, the Browns shopped him for a while. They may be doing so again, with Breer indicating the 30-year-old edge rusher is being viewed as available. However, the Browns would move to replace the veteran opposite Myles Garrett. They were in on the first Nkagoue sweepstakes in August but lost out to the Vikings. In the final year of his contract, Vernon does not have a sack this season.
  • Entering their Week 8 game, the Panthers may be straddling the buyer-seller line at 3-4. However, they are still in a rebuilding phase in Matt Rhule‘s first season. Any buyer’s deal Carolina makes would be for a player controllable beyond this season rather than a rental who could help the team secure a wild-card spot, Joe Person of The Athletic writes (subscription required).
  • Prior to signing Mohamed Sanu as injury insurance this year, the 49ers finished second to the Patriots for Sanu at last year’s deadline. The 49ers offered the Falcons a third-round pick for Sanu, Breer notes, but the Pats gave up a second-round pick. San Francisco’s subsequent Emmanuel Sanders addition ended up being more impactful, and Sanu is currently training for his next opportunity.

Browns Were In Serious Talks For Yannick Ngakoue

The Jaguars have finally traded Yannick Ngakoue, shipping him to the Vikings in exchange for a 2021 second-round pick and a conditional fifth-rounder in 2022. But before that happened, Jacksonville and the Browns were engaged in serious trade talks, as Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com reports.

The Browns were mentioned as a potential suitor for Ngakoue this offseason, but until now, there were no concrete reports concerning Cleveland’s interest. Per Cabot, the fact that Ngakoue was dealing with a change in representation during the trade negotiations threw a wrench in the works, and by the time his agency situation was settled, the July 15 deadline for extending franchise-tagged players had passed. While the Browns may have been willing to part with the same draft capital that the Vikings did to land Ngakoue, his status as a potential one-year rental made them less inclined to do so.

However, Ngakoue “really wanted” to play for the Browns, according to Cabot’s sources. The 2016 third-rounder accepted a significant pay cut from his $17.8MM franchise tag number to facilitate his trade to Minnesota, and Cabot says he may have been willing to drop his 2020 salary even more for Cleveland.

But the Browns ultimately elected to move forward with Olivier Vernon, reworking his deal to turn his $15.25MM non-guaranteed pact into $11MM guaranteed with the potential to earn an additional $2MM via incentives. When that happened, it made an Ngakoue trade (or a Jadeveon Clowney signing) much less likely.

Cabot says that Vernon is in the midst of a terrific training camp, and the Browns fully believe that he and Myles Garrett will form an imposing pass rush duo in 2020. Ngakoue obviously has considerably more long-term upside than Vernon, so time will tell if Cleveland — which still has a lot of salary cap space — made the right call.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.