Nothing says “NFL offseason” like the ongoing exercise of linking many (most?) free agents to the Cleveland Browns.
That is especially true if the free agent in question is the type of big-name player that even the most casual of fans will recognize.
Because of that, it was not surprising a couple of weeks ago when Browns fans got excited about the idea of Richard Sherman, who is set to become a free agent after playing the past three seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. That excitement was fueled by Sherman sort of, maybe, but not really, intimating in a Tweet that he wanted to play for the Browns:
It is a pleasant fantasy to think that the Browns might want to sign Sherman, a three-time All-Pro selection and five-time Pro Bowler, even if injuries did limit him to just five games in 2020, a season where he posted a coverage grade of just 67.2, according to Pro Football Focus.
When he was healthy in 2019, however, Sherman only allowed 227 receiving yards and a passer rating of 46.8, according to PFF. He is also a smart player who, while possibly entering the downside of his career, could still offer value to a defensive back group that is currently headed by Denzel Ward, who just finished his third season in the league.
Throw in that Sherman is familiar with current defensive coordinator Joe Woods after the two worked together with the 49ers in 2019, and that the Browns have several questions at cornerback behind Ward, and perhaps there is more to Sherman’s Tweet than just a player working to build interest and drive his price up.
It appears that the Browns are not buying it, however, and no plans to show any interest in a cornerback who will be 33-years-old in a few weeks, according to Mary Kay Cabot at cleveland.com (paywalled):
The Browns are counting on starting cornerback Greedy Williams to return from the nerve damage in his shoulder, and they’ll likely try to re-sign his 2020 replacement Terrance Mitchell and slot corner Kevin Johnson. In addition, they’ll look to add other cornerbacks, either through the draft, free agency, a trade. In the case of the latter two, they’ll likely look for a younger cornerback than Sherman, who will be 33 next month.
General manager Andrew Berry has some salary cap space to spend, but he has said the team’s priority is to focus on retaining its own free agents. And if Berry does want to throw some cash at an aging free agent, former Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt may be a better option, especially if the team’s medical staff truly does believe that Greedy Williams can make it back on the field after missing all of the 2020 season, and Mitchell is open to re-signing with the Browns.
It might be a bit disappointing to some, but if Cabot’s report is correct, it is probably a good idea to hold off on ordering that customized Sherman Browns jersey.