With the departures this offseason of Jabaal Sheard, Buster Skrine and Jordan Cameron, the Cleveland Browns are without a core depth player and two starters from the 2014 season, one of whom being a Pro Bowler in Cameron. While all three have their faults, they are still solid pieces that the Browns will look to move on from, and they might not be the only Pro Bowler the Browns look to cut ties with in the future.
As reported by Dane Brugler of CBS Sports, Damarious Randall, the free safety out of Arizona State, has a pre-draft visit scheduled this week with the Cleveland Browns. Currently scheduled to come off the board in the third round, it seems the Browns could be looking to head in a less expensive direction at the position in the future—a move that could come at the expense of Tashaun Gipson.
The Browns previously have placed a second-round tender on Gipson to the tune of $2.3 million for the 2015 season. Without the two sides completing a long-term extension in the coming weeks, Gipson will have until April 24th to sign the one-year deal. With their starter set for the 2015 season, the Browns could decide to draft and develop Randall throughout the year, and examine where he is at the end of the season.
At that time, the Browns could then decide whether Randall is the answer for 2016, or if they would need to use the franchise tag on Gipson to retain him one more season at $7.8 million. The reason the team may head in this direction is the allocation of salary cap for the free safety position. The Browns received good results from the combination of Jim Leonard (who graded out amongst the Top 25 safeties last year, per Pro Football Focus) and Jordan Poyer, so it is clear the team has faith they can find and develop talent to fit their system.
In the case of Randall, NFL.com’s scouting department notes that they “love his toughness and effort. Inspired effort as a tackler, racking up 177 tackles during two-year stint at Arizona State. Looks to punish. Explodes into targets and jolts his victims.” The report depicts a player with traits that very much sound like someone who would fit in with Mike Pettine and Jim O’Neil‘s defense.
If the Browns are looking to keep Gipson long-term, they will have to look in the direction of Devin McCourty, who shares similar statistics and just signed a five year, $47.5 million dollar deal. With Gipson being younger and with more interceptions, it’s safe to say that $47.5 million is merely a starting point, and one has to wonder how much money the Browns will allot to a secondary already featuring one of the league’s highest paid cornerbacks.
2015 – $2.3M (2nd round tender)
2016 – $7.8M (franchise tag cost)
2017 – UFA
Mid-3rd Round Rookie:
2015 – $725K
2016 – $725K
2017 – $725K
2018 – $725K
2015 – $2.5M
2016 – $4.5M
2017 – $6.5M
2018 – $7.5M
2019 – $9M
The Browns have been very smart about their salary cap since the team of Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi took over, shedding expensive contracts and getting the roster to move in a younger direction. With Ray Farmer, the team has continued that mentality, spending conservatively in free agency and focusing their attention on the NFL Draft.
It is entirely possible that the team could decide paying Gipson close to $10 million per season is simply not worth the investment at the free safety position, especially if the team finds their franchise quarterback like they hope to. With all those factors, it is a good assumption that fans could see the hard-hitting, much more cost-effective Randall in uniform over the next four seasons, and Gipson on his way out of town sooner than anyone expects.