A breakdown of the Cleveland Browns' 2019 free-agent signings.
Sheldon Richardson, defensive tackle
The Browns are expected to sign Richardson to a three-year deal worth up to $39 million, including $21.5 million guaranteed, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Here’s a closer look at the defensive tackle who spent the previous six seasons with the Vikings, Seahawks and Jets:
What it means: With the addition of Richardson and the trade for Olivier Vernon (which becomes official on Wednesday), the Browns have formed an impressive defensive front. Richardson and Vernon will combine with Myles Garrett and Larry Ogunjobi to form a young (Vernon and Richardson are the eldest at 28) and active group that can play the run and the pass. In this passing era, defensive backs can only cover for so long. Pressure is important. The Browns now have four defensive linemen who can apply pressure and get after the passer.
What’s the risk: There doesn’t seem to be a huge risk here. The Browns ranked 30th in total defense last season, 28th against the run. The excitement of the discovery of Baker Mayfield didn’t cloud general manager John Dorsey’s vision that he needed to strengthen his front seven. The Browns have not replaced linebacker Jamie Collins, released prior to free agency, but in this passing era they could use Jabrill Peppers as a hybrid safety-linebacker and play with two other linebackers, which would essentially have five defensive backs on the field. The defense needed upgrading. Dorsey accomplished that up front.
Demetrius Harris, tight end
The Browns have agreed to terms with Harris on a two-year, $6 million deal that includes $3.25 million guaranteed, according to ESPN Adam Schefter. Here’s a closer look at the tight end who spent the last five seasons with the Chiefs:
What it means: Harris steps in for Darren Fells, who was released after one season. At 6-foot-7 and 230 pounds, Harris has mainly been a blocking tight end behind Travis Kelce. Assuming David Njoku stays the starter, Harris will get a chance to compete with Njoku while also settling into a similar role with the Browns. In five seasons, Harris played in 71 games with 33 starts and 57 receptions for 605 yards and six touchdowns. He also could contribute on special teams.
What’s the risk: Minimal. It’s hard to determine if the Browns have total faith in Njoku, but his athleticism and talent are tough to turn away from. With Odell Beckham Jr. coming to Cleveland to join Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, there could be more room for Njoku to operate in the middle of the field. Harris has not been able to establish himself as a pass-catching tight end, but he should get a chance to compete and would have a role behind Njoku. These are the small moves that build a team.
Kendall Lamm, offensive line
The Browns signed Lamm to a two-year contract worth $7 million, the terms according to the Houston Chronicle. Here’s a closer look at Lamm, who played four seasons in Houston:
What it means: This is an interesting signing because Lamm started 13 games at right tackle for the Texans last season. Chris Hubbard started 16 games at that spot for the Browns, and played better every game. At a minimum, Lamm would provide depth, though it will be interesting to see where he lines up.
What’s the risk: As a depth signing, there’s little risk. Lamm went undrafted and worked hard to get to the starting lineup. If Lamm earns the starting job at right tackle – and it would be a major surprise if he did given the way Hubbard finished – it means another new piece on the five-man front. The Browns already have to replace right guard Kevin Zeitler (traded in the Odell Beckham deal), and adjusting to two new offensive line starters can be a challenge. That being said, John Dorsey loves competition, and he’s provided it with this signing.
Adarius Taylor, linebacker
The Browns have agreed to terms with Taylor on a two-year, $5 million deal. Here’s a closer look at the linebacker who spent four seasons in Tampa and one in Carolina:
What it means: The Browns appear to have relied on the the background of new defensive coordinator Steve Wilks amd linebackers coach Al Holcomb with this move. Taylor played briefly for Carolina when Wilks was defensive backs coach and Holcomb coached linebackers. Tampa Bay signed Taylor off Carolina’s practice squad in 2015, and he got his most significant playing time last season after Kwon Alexander tore his ACL. In 10 starts last season, Taylor had 60 tackles, one interception, five passes defensed and one forced fumble.
What’s the risk: Taylor will get a chance to step in for Jamie Collins, who was released, but there figure to be more moves at this position, either in free agency or the draft. The Browns bring back Christian Kirksey and Joe Schobert as starters and may want to continue to add depth and talent to the position. Taylor is 6-foot-1 and 230 pounds, so he appears to be more pass defender than run thumper, but the ability to defend in space against spread offense gets more important every year.
Eric Kush, offensive lineman
The Browns have announced the signing of guard/center Kush. Here’s a closer look at Kush, who was has spent two seasons with the Bears, one with the Rams and two with the Chiefs.
What it means: Kush, 29, originally was drafted by John Dorsey in the fifth round when Dorsey was GM in Kansas City. He can play guard or center, and in five NFL seasons he has 12 starts, seven last season in Chicago. He figures to compete with Austin Corbett for the guard spot that is open following the trade of Kevin Zeitler to the Giants, or to back up at both center and guard.
What’s the risk: It would seem low given Dorsey scouted and drafted Kush. He knows him well. Offensive line depth is important, and the Browns really aren’t positive that Corbett is ready until he actually shows it on the field. “The organization selected Corbett 33rd overall for a reason, because we feel he's a good football player,” Dorsey said. “But by no means do you anoint him right now. You go into training camp and you compete.” Kush provides that depth and competition.