Former Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson has officially agreed to a deal with the Minnesota Vikings. No longer having Richardson to potentially fall back to, the Browns are now seemingly fully committed to their young trio of defensive tackles including Jordan Elliott entering his second year and rookies Tommy Togiai and Marvin Wilson.
Richardson's deal is worth up to $4.3 million, so if the Browns wanted him, they could have signed him. They saved $12 million in cap space when they initially released him, so their cap wasn't an issue. They made a choice.
And while the Browns have had Elliott, Togiai and Wilson since the NFL Draft concluded, there was always a sense that if the Browns weren't satisfied, they could then go back and re-sign Richardson. That cord is cut and short of an injury, it's unlikely they will go elsewhere because Richardson's talent at that price was far and away the best the Browns could hope to acquire.
The Browns have leaned into saving money at the defensive tackle position and spending cap space on the defensive end position, which can also function inside. Jadeveon Clowney and Myles Garrett have the ability to line up anywhere on the line. Richardson could play big end, but he was largely utilized inside.
Meanwhile, this further signals the move that the Browns are taking a more job based approach with defensive tackle. Partly because of an opt out to Andrew Billings last year, Richardson and Larry Ogunjobi had to play a ton of snaps last year. Richardson routinely plays 70 percent of snaps on a year basis and never misses games.
Now, the Browns appear to be preparing to use more of a group approach. They certainly plan to use Billings and Malik Jackson this year, but between Elliott, Togiai and Wilson as depth inside and then players like Clowney and even Garrett potentially liining up on the inside, they won't be forced to rely quite so heavily on any one player.
Chris Kiffin, the Browns defensive line coach has a big job in front of him trying to get the defensive line ready. There are more expectations than last year and he has to find a way to get at least as much production, if not more, from the defensive line.