Imagine the perfect measureables for an edge rusher.
Did you say 6'4" 260 with a 4.5 - 4.6 forty time and strength numbers that rival offensive tackles that outweigh him by 40-50 lbs? Yeah that's Vernon Gholston. On paper this guy is a Hall of Famer. Unfortunately for the Jets those kinds of evaluations just haven't translated onto the field (raise your hand if you remember Courtney Brown).
The Jets aren't happy. Gholston has $10 million in the bank and is yet to record a single sack in the regular season. Now the possibility of an uncapped season is leading some Jets fans to call for the team to cut Gholston and his huge contract with no fear of a cap penalty. Given that Gholston is a Mangini guy, should the Browns take a flyer on the unproductive linebacker?
Gholston's unproductive rookie season was written off as learning a new position (OLB from DE in college) but this year the jet fans have started to question the former Ohio State star's toughness and desire to play the game. In this NFL climate, everything is 'what have you done for me lately?' but a guy with Gholston's talent could turn it around given the right situation. Mario Williams and James Farrior were high draft picks who were initially considered busts but eventually blossomed into productive players, so it is possible to turn it around after a couple tough seasons.
Having scouted, drafted and coached this guy, Eric Mangini must have at least some read on what to make of Gholston's lack of production. Is it the brash nature of Rex Ryan's Jets too boisterous for the soft spoken Gholston? Is the cerebral linebacker just trying to cope with the "paralysis by analysis" that sometimes plagues athletes who 'think too much.' Do the bright lights of New York and its accompanying media scrutiny not mesh with the midwestern Gholston?
Or does Gholston not have the "nasty streak" that helps some of the most tenacious defenders play with the physicality and wreckless abandon that the NFL demands? We all watched this guy blossom at Ohio State. Did he look like a guy who just didn't care about football to you?
‘‘It’s not for me to say whether I should be playing more or whatever the case may be,’’ said Gholston, who has played sparingly down the stretch as the Jets try to make a playoff run. ‘‘I just show up to work every day and whatever they ask me to do, I do, and try to get better. I’m not trying to be a distraction.
‘‘We’re in the playoff race. I just rely on the coaches to put us in the best position to win. That’s what I’m putting it (his inactivity) toward.’’
Asked if he’s upset or angry about his reduced role, Gholston said, ‘‘That’s not my mind-set. For me, I’m up on all the special teams and that’s what my role is. All you can do is play what is given to you.’’
One might call this "being a good soldier." Many Jets fans say that his response is a sign that Gholston is aloof and doesn't care how he performs as long as the paycheck keeps coming.
Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum (you all know him by now right?) said Gholston will definitely be back next season. Tannenbaum praised Gholston’s "great work ethic."
"This is going to be an important offseason for him," Tannenbaum said. "I have no objective information to say that this guy doesn’t love football."
Unless something changes, I think that means they aren't planning to cut the guy just yet.
However I get the feeling that Gholston could be moved for the right price. I loved Gholston when he was at Ohio State, I even had a class with him. He definitely looks a little stiff and stands too tall on film, I get the feeling that if he put his immense talent to use he could salvage his carrier in the NFL and be successful. I think it all comes down to if this kid has the desire to get dirty and improve or if he just doesn't have the desire. He definitely has Mario Williams kind of potential.
Given the Browns recent history of deals with the Jets, I think IF Mangini still thinks Gholston could be productive, and IF the Jets are ready to cut ties with the former #6 overall pick, the Browns could probably get him for a couple of mid round picks, if they are willing to take on his contract (about $11mil of guaranteed money). Moreover, the Browns could probably renegotiate his contract to (at the very least) frontload some of his money into the uncapped season and make the rest of the contract heavily incentive-laden. Which would basically give him an (expensive) one year trial period while subsequent years on his deal wouldn't have a big cap footprint.
Keep in mind this guy is just 23 (he could be in the upcoming draft as a 5th year senior) and has elite physical tools (compares favorably with Brian Orakpo and Sergio Kindle) I think dealing for him might make sense for the Browns because he has the kind of upside you just don't see in the third round, and a change of scenery might be just the thing that can get this guy going in the right direction.