The Cleveland Browns and defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson reportedly agreed to a three-year deal in free agency Tuesday, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network later reported the deal is worth $36 million. The signing cannot become official until the new league year begins Wednesday.
Richardson tallied 49 total tackles and 4.5 sacks in 2018 with the Minnesota Vikings, who signed him as a free agent after he spent the 2017 season with the Seattle Seahawks. Pro Football Focus graded him as the NFL’s 47th-best interior defender.
Along with the solid production, the 28-year-old also transformed himself into a locker room asset after past issues, including a four-game suspension in 2015 while with the New York Jets for a violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy.
“Life happens,” Richardson told Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press in December. “I have a daughter now. I want to be a positive impact. I tell people now that I’m ‘slow motion.’ I ain’t going nowhere too fast. I’m definitely on the straight and narrow now. I grab me a drink once in a blue moon, but that’s about it.”
The University of Missouri product racked up 44 total tackles, a sack, an interception and a forced fumble across 15 appearances for Seattle in 2017.
His track record across four years with the Jets, who selected him with the 13th overall pick in the 2013 draft, included the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Award in 2013 and a Pro Bowl selection in 2014.
The 6’3″, 295-pounder also possesses positional versatility with the ability to play either defensive end or defensive tackle depending on the scheme.
Richardson will be playing for his third different team in as many years after signing with the Browns. While changing squads that often can have a negative impact, the tackle made a smooth transition to Minnesota, which lessens those concerns.
He should slot in as a starting defensive tackle on a Cleveland team that has strengthened its front four considerably this offseason with the signing of Richardson and the trade acquisition of Olivier Vernon from the New York Giants.
EAGAN, Minn. — When defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson signed with Vikings as a free agent last March, he was asked about facing the New York Jets in 2018.
“They’ve got to come see me,” he said.
The time has arrived for Richardson to run into the team he played for from 2013-16. The Vikings face the Jets on Sunday, Oct. 21, at Met Life Stadium.
Richardson had a strong start with the Jets, winning NFL Rookie of the Year honors in 2013 and making the Pro Bowl in 2014. But his tenure didn’t end well. After months of trying to trade him, New York finally shipped him to Seattle nine days before the start of the 2017 season.
On Wednesday, Richardson downplayed the reunion.
“Another game,” he said. “I never put myself above the team. Whatever personal vendetta I have is between me.”
Richardson called his trade “business.” He didn’t deny, though, that it was difficult being dealt to the Seahawks so close to the start of last season and having to learn a new defense on the fly.
“It’s tough, man,” he said. “It’s just the way it is. I did some things for me to get out of there for them to trade me, and other than that, I put it on myself, nobody else.”
Richardson was suspended for the first four games in 2015 for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy with marijuana use. Shortly after that suspension was announced, he was arrested in July 2015 outside his native St. Louis after he reportedly was street racing at 143 mph and attempted to avoid police.
A loaded handgun was found beneath the driver’s seat, although that was legally registered to Richardson. He was found guilty of reckless driving and resisting arrest and fined $1,050. He also received two years probation and was ordered to perform 100 hours of community service.
The NFL suspended him for the 2016 opener.
“It was kind of self-inflicted wounds,” Richardson said. “It’s just now me overcoming my personal battles in life. They got me out of there, and that changed everything around there. That’s pretty much it. I pretty much grew from everywhere. Every point, every phase of my life, I grew from it.
“Time heals all wounds. You’ve just got to learn how to get over things and keep moving forward. Life goes on.”
Richardson’s play declined after Todd Bowles replaced Rex Ryan as Jets coach in 2015. Bowles said Wednesday that Richardson was traded because he was going to become a free agent after the 2017 season.
“I love Sheldon to death and I think he’s a heck of a player, and even more a heck of a person,” Bowles said. ”I’m happy for him, and he’s doing well.”
Mike Zimmer said Richardson has fit in well after signing a one-year, $8 million contract.
“I’ve been really impressed with Sheldon; not just his play, but the way he’s come in here and tried to learn the techniques we are trying to teach him,” the Vikings coach said. “His professionalism, how he handles himself in the meetings, he’s been really good with everything.”
While Richardson’s New York tenure didn’t end well, he does have fond memories of his early Jets years. He was used in the backfield as a rookie in 2013 and carried four times for four yards with two touchdowns.
“My top moment?” Richardson said. “Scoring touchdowns. On offense pretty much. Winning Rookie of the Year and going to the Pro Bowl. It was fun.”