What is the Cost to bring Everson Griffen to Cleveland?
Pro bowl defensive end Everson Griffen is one of the best edge rushers remaining on the market and he should become a priority signing for general manager Andrew Berry. As mentioned previously, Berry used a unique approach when signing defensive free agents this offseason. The recent additions on the defensive side of the ball were all regulated to one-year deals. With those additions Berry managed to revamp the secondary, fill the hole at middle linebacker and improve depth on the interior of the defensive line. Of all the transactions made thus far in free agency, the franchise has yet to make any changes to the defensive end group. There are still proven edge defenders left on the free agent market that the front office should seriously evaluate as potential options. For instance, Jadeveon Clowney is a higher priced option to sign and in the scenario they want to sign a cheaper priced veteran, Everson Griffen would be an ideal candidate.
Griffen is an ideal candidate because he could fulfill a major need at defensive end and would provide much needed veteran leadership for the Browns young defense. Griffen was likely to draw interest from the Cleveland Browns following his release from the Minnesota Vikings. It made sense given Kevin Stefanski is the new head coach and defensive coordinator Joe Woods worked on the same defense as Griffen for three seasons. Griffen could provide a better option for Joe Woods, being slightly bigger than Olivier Vernon at 6’ 3” weighing 273 pounds and having more consistent production in recent seasons.
Everson Griffen has been a productive pass rusher throughout his ten-year career with 74.5 sacks. Griffen’s passing rush prowess in highlighted by an explosive first step and a highly efficient spin move once a lineman engages. The valuable characteristic he offers is the ability operate as a 3-technique in NASCAR packages which utilizes faster defensive linemen in obvious passing situations. He is a four-time pro bowler with his most recent pro bowl season in 2019 and was second-team All-Pro in 2017. In the event that Andrew Berry signs Griffen it most likely would precede the release of Olivier Vernon. Vernon is currently on the books for a $15.5 million cap hit for the final year of his contract and his release would improve cap space allocation.
The business side is where things can become more complicated because Griffen's potential asking price may be a roadblock. This could be a result of his agent asking for more money than the Browns are willing to offer, the length of the contract, or a combination of both. Negotiations of price are extremely important in free agency as players have various selling points for a contract rather it be market value money or long-term security. The Browns front office may be forced into a situation of satisfying both criteria in order to sign the sought-after pro bowl defensive end.
Griffen’s consistent production and being on the wrong side of thirty are two huge factors effecting contract negotiations. Based on contracts the past two years of players similar too Griffen’s intangibles, the statistical production was 36 tackles and 6.5 sacks last season with an average salary of $10.35 million per year. Last season, Griffen finished with 41 tackles and 8 sacks, while his last contract averaged nine million annually. Understanding that Griffen only has a few seasons left making starter money he may want a market value contract. Based on those factors there are two routes that would benefit both the Cleveland Browns and Everson Griffen.
The likeliest of the two options would be a one-year deal worth $12.75 million. This contract would put Griffen on the higher end of the average salary, between Justin Houston and Carlos Dunlap. A deal of this nature would save up to $5.5 million in overall cap space ($2.75 million in actual cap and $2.75 million in rollover) and gives Andrew Berry the same 2020 flexibility as retaining Olivier Vernon. The second offer would be a two-year contract worth $23.1 million, giving the Browns a running mate for Myles Garrett for two seasons. This option would be more ideal as it gives Andrew Berry more time to find a successor and decreases the need to use a high draft pick on a defensive end.
Lastly, the annual salary based on Vernon’s current cap hit, a deal with Griffen would only cost the Browns $7.6 million in the second year. Creating cap space and limiting constraints for draft strategies should be priorities when bringing in free agents. If Andrew Berry can negotiate a contract to bring in the veteran pass rush specialist, it would improve the defensive line and provide another leader for Joe Woods’ defense.