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Training Camp Preview: Cleveland Browns bolstered defensive line, got bookend rusher to pair with Myles Garrett

The Cleveland Browns bolstered their defensive line with a trade for Olivier Vernon during the offseason.
Credit: Gary Landers
Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett (95) celebrates after sacking Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton in the first half of an AFC North Division game at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati on Sunday, November 26, 2017.

CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns were confident in the skills of defensive end Myles Garrett and tackle Larry Ogunjobi, but the front office decided to get them some help through a trade and a free-agent signing at the start of the new league year earlier this month.

The Browns got versatile defender Olivier Vernon from the New York Giants in a trade, and also, signed standout defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson to a three-year contract worth a reported $39 million.

“It is a pick-your-poison-type of deal,” Richardson said in a conference call with the Cleveland media shortly after signing.

“That is the type of feeling you get from looking at it going off of numbers. That will be the feeling you get. It is a pick-your-poison type of deal. If you are going to double team me, somebody else is going to make the play and get off. That is how I look at it. I can only speak for myself at the moment.”

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Over 103 games in seven seasons with the Miami Dolphins and Giants, the 6-foot-2, 270-pound Vernon registered 326 total tackles, including 232 solo stops and 94 assists, with 51.0 sacks, two passes defended and one interception.

Vernon registered at least 6.5 sacks in each of the last six seasons.

Vernon figures to transition back to defensive end after spending last season as an outside linebacker for the Giants, and will be a bookend pass rusher with Garrett.

“You know exactly what you are getting from a standpoint of the player,” Browns defensive coordinator Steve Wilks said during the offseason program.

“You see his skillset over the years and his ability to be able to change the complexity of a game. I am hoping he can do the same thing for us. The guy can rush the passer, but most importantly, it is just that emphasis for us stopping the run. I think he’s going to complement Sheldon, as well as Myles.”

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Fully healthy coming into the 2018 season, Garrett emerged as a leader for the Browns’ defense and registered 44 total tackles, including 35 solo stops, while playing in all 16 games for the team who selected him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Of those 44 tackles, 13.5 were sacks on opposing quarterbacks for 75.5 lost yards and Garrett finished the year with the fourth-most sacks in a single season in franchise history.

With 20.5 career sacks, Garrett registered the most by a Brown in his first 27 games, as well as the most by a defender in his first two professional seasons. This past year, Garrett ranked sixth in the NFL with the 13.5 sacks and was among the leaders in the AFC with four forced fumbles.

“Freakish athlete,” Richardson said. “Knows how to get after the quarterback. Not too much really bad to say about him. Reminds me of (Minnesota’s) Danielle Hunter. That is the best way I can put it. That is splitting hairs comparing the two.

“Identical people. Freakish athlete, built. Looks like a created player off of Madden. High-motor guys. You really do not get guys that talented like that, and then, they play with passion like that. Some guys get arrogant. I was one of them, so I know.”

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