Q: If the Browns are willing to go into 2020 paying Olivier Vernon $15.5 million, why not upgrade to Jadeveon Clowney for $17.5 million? By cutting O.V. you’ll be getting the upgrade for about $2 million more of new money.
A: You got to the heart of the matter, as did @me80211837.
If it were as simple as paying Clowney $17.5 million in 2020, I think the Browns would lock in that deal. I believe they agree with you that Clowney is worth $2 million more than Vernon.
But there are likely other factors in play. Most notably: Is Clowney willing to take a one-year deal? And is he willing to take it with the Browns?
If the reports are right that Clowney began free agency looking for $20 million a year, then I’m sure he expected a multiyear deal. Just because he’s reportedly dropped his price doesn’t mean he’d agree to a one-year deal. The Browns may be willing to go $17 million a year for two years, but a longer commitment would affect their salary cap going forward and lock them into a deal with a player with an injury history and pedestrian sack numbers — his season best is 9.5. One of the advantages to keeping Vernon is his contract expires after 2020.
The final piece to analyze is how much of an upgrade is Clowney over Vernon. Yes, Vernon missed six games at the end of last season with a knee injury and finished with only 3.5 sacks, but he was solid against the run and coming on before the injury. Sacks aren’t everything, but Clowney managed only three in 13 games with Seattle last year.
Q: Would you shell out the big bucks for Jadeveon Clowney or Trent Williams?
A: Can I say neither?
If it were just about the money, I’d pay Williams before Clowney. Williams is an elite left tackle when healthy. Clowney has flashes of brilliance but hasn’t lived up to being the No. 1 pick of the 2014 draft.
I have two concerns about Williams that cause me to hesitate. He’s not a free agent, and I’d be unwilling to trade a first- or second-round pick then renegotiate his contract to pay him more than $15 million a year. I also don’t trust him staying healthy.
As for Clowney, I don’t think he’s worth $16 million a year. But as mentioned above, if you’re already scheduled to pay Vernon $15.5 million, I’d bite the bullet for one year.
Q: Scott, what percentage do you place on the Browns taking a left tackle in the draft?
A: I’ll go with 90 percent.
As it stands, the roster lacks any suitable starting options. So even if the Browns trade for Trent Williams or sign free agent Jason Peters, they should add a younger backup in the draft. And if they don’t add a starting-caliber veteran — which seems unlikely — they must fill the huge hole early in the draft.
If you’re asking the percentage on the Browns drafting a left tackle at No. 10, the number drops. A couple of other scenarios are legitimate options — trading down or drafting Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons if he’s on the board. So I’ll say 60 percent they stay at No. 10 and take a tackle.
Q: What position would you target in the 2nd round after left tackle in the 1st?
A: Assuming no free agent signings or trades before the draft, the Browns should be focused on defense, particularly safety, linebacker and defensive end. And that’s the order I’d rank the need.
The Browns agreed to a deal with Karl Joseph and signed backup Andrew Sendejo in free agency but need another starting safety. Their second-round pick at No. 41 seems like the sweet spot for landing one, with plenty of intriguing options.
Linebacker is also a concern, but at least the Browns have Mack Wilson, Sione Takitaki and B.J. Goodson. If the new regime believes in Takitaki, the urgency to find a starter is greatly reduced.
As for end, whether it’s Olivier Vernon, Jadeveon Clowney or Everson Griffen, the Browns should have a veteran starter to join Myles Garrett and backups Adrian Clayborn and Chad Thomas. They still need a long-term partner for Garrett, but it’s not the most pressing priority.
Q: You’ve had some tweets about golf and from your profile I gather that you are a golfer. I have not seen any talk about delaying training camp as it seems like it’s too early for that. However, if there is a delay, what Browns players will be spending their time on the course? And if you have had the chance to golf with any of them, are there any stories that you can pass on?
— Andy Johnston
A: I certainly am a golfer. I absolutely love it and would spend every day on the course if I could.
Punter Jamie “Scottish Hammer” Gillan tops the list of Browns who would certainly pick up their clubs. His Scottish roots are a giveaway, and he had played Firestone Country Club before making the team last year. Center JC Tretter and former linebacker Joe Schobert are others I know like to play. Schobert gave me a tip about curing a slice in training camp last year.
In my many years covering the team, quarterbacks, kickers and punters are traditionally the best and most avid golfers. Quarterback Derek Anderson spent a lot of time at local tracks, and punter Andy Lee once told me about the work he was putting into his wedge game because he needed to make more birdies to drop his already impressive handicap. Baker Mayfield told reporters he isn’t a golfer, but his social media accounts show he plays on occasion. Odell Beckham Jr. has flirted with the game at the driving range and hopes to hit the course in the future.
Unfortunately I’ve yet to play a round with a player. Coach Freddie Kitchens promised to hit the links with me but we never got around to it.
Q: Would the Browns be able to get Washington left tackle Trent Williams for the No. 41 or No. 74 pick in the draft? And with a trade necessary to land Williams, would it be better for the Browns to sign free agent Jason Peters?
— Mark Leonard
A: I paraphrased your questions but believe I got the gist. I think the Browns could get Williams for No. 41 but I wouldn’t be willing to part with that, especially knowing he wants to renegotiate his contract. I’d consider giving up No. 74, especially if, like you mentioned, line coach Bill Callahan is a big supporter after their time together in Washington.
But I agree with you. Signing Peters for a year or two is a cleaner transaction and makes more sense to me. He provides flexibility in the draft — GM Andrew Berry would be free to trade down, add picks and select a tackle from the second tier of candidates. The rookie could then learn behind Peters for a year or two.
Q: Historical question: If there was any single Browns regime you could have in charge of this current roster barring the Paul Brown/Blanton Collier era, who would it be and why?
A: The answer has to be Bill Belichick, right? He’s probably the best coach of all time, so whom else would I trust with a team talented enough to make the playoffs. And Belichick is the de facto general manager with the Patriots, so it’s his regime.
If I were basing the decision strictly on their tenures in Cleveland, Ernie Accorsi as general manager and Marty Schottenheimer as coach is the no-brainer. The Browns had far and away the most success — since the glory years — in the second half of the 1980s under their direction. They would lead this talented but top-heavy roster straight to the playoffs.
If you kept your restrictions to the expansion Browns, I’d take Phil Savage/Romeo Crennel. I trust them more than Butch Davis.
Q: Any word from the Browns about potential refunds or rollovers to 2021 for season ticket holders if/when the season is canceled or played in empty stadiums?
A: I haven’t heard anything yet, as the NFL continues to hope/plan for a full season in 2020. I don’t think they want to discuss the doomsday scenario until necessary.