Cleveland Browns secondary needs Richard Sherman
By: Noah Nichols
The Cleveland Browns entered into the 2021 NFL draft clearly lacking at the cornerback position. They had the 27th worst passing defense in the NFL in 2020. Quarterbacks averaged 265 yards a game against the Browns. Only five teams were worse in 2020. The Browns knew that something needed to change in their secondary, specifically at cornerback. As a result, they selected Greg Newsome II in the first round. They also signed former Los Angles Rams cornerback Troy Hill. Both these moves are indicative of two things.
One, that the Browns knew there was a problem- and addressed it. They could not ignore the horrible pass defense that their team consistently put up in 2020. Aside from Denzel Ward, there were questions about if the rest of the secondary even belonged in the NFL. Those questions have more merit than you might think. A.J. Green, Kevin Johnson, Andrew Sendejo, Karl Joseph, and Sheldrick Redwine were all starters in 2020 for the Browns. Only Sendejo and Joseph were supposed to start in 2020, and none of those players are starting in 2021 for the Browns.
Two, the Browns have lost faith in Greedy Williams and have lowered their expectations of Grant Delpit. Williams played zero games for the Browns in 2020 and twelve games in 2019. He has only two pass deflections to his name, and injuries seem to be derailing his career. The Browns are ready to move on, or replace him with someone else. Delpit has yet to play a snap in the NFL after suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon in training camp last year.
This opens the door for two things, players with availability, and players with experience. That’s where Richard Sherman comes in.
The Browns could sign Sherman to be a veteran backup/starter in case someone gets injured, and the Browns would not be forced to start someone who has never played a game. The problem that the Browns might be worried about with Sherman is his availability. He has not played a full season since 2016, though he was close to doing so in 2018 and 2019. However, if the Browns sign Sherman, he won’t be a starter, at least not right away. He would be the third or fourth cornerback, and could play more zone, where he excels.
Because he would not be the starter, the Browns would not be hit too hard when/if he was injured. They would be able to play Williams behind him, and would not see a huge difference in play. Sherman would bring experience to the cornerback position and would not have to be a starter, perfect for a player getting up there in age.
So, why should the Browns sign Sherman? A few reasons. First, Sherman is expecting courters at this point in free agency. As he stated in an interview, Sherman knows that teams would wait to sign him until after the draft. “Well, apparently we got to wait ’til the draft happens before anything else shakes out, because everybody has their hopes and dreams in the draft, which is understandable,” Sherman said, via Matt Maiocco of NBCSportsBayArea.com. “You turn 33, and then it’s like, ‘We’ll wait until we get a young pup; and if we can’t get a young pup, we’ll take an old fool.’ So that’s where we’re sitting.”
The “old fool,” has bid his time, and now it’s up. The draft is over, and now the Browns know what they have. They can add Sherman for cheap, with interest in the aging corner seeming to die down. They are a contender for the Super Bowl, something that Sherman made clear that he was looking for in the next team that he would sign with. And if the Browns sign him now, it prevents him from becoming more expensive in the future.
Sherman would be able to drive up the price if another injury were to happen in camp, because the Browns would not have many other options, if they wanted an experienced cornerback. Signing Sherman now would ensure that the Browns would have depth at cornerback- something that teams never can get enough of.
Critics will point out that the Browns already have depth at the position. They will argue that the addition of Hill and Newsome will be more than enough, and there is no need for added depth. However, the Browns have clearly had problems keeping their players healthy in the secondary over the past two years. And with a 17-game schedule, there is even more room for injury. Another player does not hurt, especially when it’s someone with the presence of Sherman.
The final thing that Sherman brings is fire to the position. He would inspire the Browns secondary to play with swagger and pride. The Browns defense would not only get better, but they would know and act like they were better. That swagger plays with the minds of opponents, and helps players believe in themselves.
Denzel Ward believes that the secondary can be great. “I think we can be dominant,” Ward, a four-year veteran, said Tuesday on the first day of minicamp. “You can never have enough corners, and all of those guys can play and they’ve shown that. So everybody has to come out here and compete and do our job, and everything else will take care of itself.”
Sherman would only build upon that mindset and belief. And if the Browns really want that mindset, then they should sign Sherman. He would only improve an already-improved defense. But they better do it soon, before someone else does.