Official Browns Release
March 13, 2019
The Browns added an All-Pro wide receiver to their offense and a Pro Bowl pass rusher to their defense in a trade Wednesday with the New York Giants.
Cleveland acquired wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and defensive end Olivier Vernon in a trade that sent right guard Kevin Zeitler and safety Jabrill Peppers to the Giants. Cleveland also sent its 2019 first-round pick (17th overall) and the 2019 third-round selection (95th overall) they acquired in a 2018 trade with the New England Patriots.
The deal is pending based on the results of player physicals.
“It’s a reflection of the direction the organization is headed,” Browns general manager John Dorsey said. “My hat’s off to a lot of people in this organization because we spent countless hours, weeks — I mean, we can go all the way back to December when we began the planning phases of these types of acquisitions. So my hat’s off to a lot of people in the personnel department and the coaching staff. And for ownership for allowing these types of things to happen. It shows you that ownership is committed to winning.
“Then, when you talk about the players. Each of them respectively are very good football players who will come in here and help us achieve our goal, and that’s to be competitive year in and year out in the AFC North. And hopefully, they are some of the pieces that will help us awaken this sleeping giant.”
Beckham, 26, has amassed more than 1,000 receiving yards in four of his five seasons — the outlier being a 2017 injury-shortened campaign that limited him to two games — and made the Pro Bowl three times (2014-16). The former 2014 first-round pick out of LSU won the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year after compiling 91 receptions, 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns in just 12 games and followed with second-team, All-Pro worthy seasons in 2015 (96 catches, 1,450 yards, 13 TDs) and 2016 (101 catches, 1,367 yards, 10 TDs).
“He’s probably if not the one, one or two best receivers in the National Football League,” Dorsey said. “Very rarely do you get a chance to acquire a player of this magnitude. He’s at a relatively young age. He’s got a lot of football left in him. Great hands, great work ethic, committed, competitive, he really wants to be great. And that’s all you can ask for.”
This past year, Beckham compiled 77 receptions for 1,052 yards and six touchdowns and was a perfect 2-for-2 for 106 yards and two passing touchdowns over 12 games. He missed the final four games of the season with a quadriceps injury. For his career, Beckham has 390 catches for 5,476 yards and 44 touchdowns.
The trade reunites Beckham with Jarvis Landry, his former teammate at LSU who led the Browns with 81 receptions and 976 yards last season. Over three seasons together, Landry and Beckham combined for 280 receptions, 4,149 yards and 29 touchdowns. Their wide receivers coach at LSU during their sophomore and junior seasons, Adam Henry, is in the same position with the Browns.
“I’m extremely excited about the opportunity to be part of this organization and the direction they are headed,” Beckham said. “I’ve already witnessed the energy fans bring in that city having been to some playoff games at The Q. Browns fans deserve a winning football team. This is a fresh start for me and it’s going to be great to join Baker (Mayfield) and Jarvis on this team. I will always appreciate the opportunity the Giants granted me and I’m thankful to them along with the fans and people in that city for supporting me.
“The Browns are an organization that is moving forward and it’s exciting to be a part of something special that is in the process of being built. We have a lot of work ahead of us but I really feel like it’s time for the Browns to come together, start winning a lot games and I’m grateful to be a part of that going forward.”
Vernon, 28, is coming off his first Pro Bowl season after piling up seven sacks and a forced fumble over 11 games. Though he missed the first five games of the season with a high ankle sprain, Vernon was as effective as he’s ever been on a per-snap basis, ranking 25th among edge rushers in pass rush productivity and fifth in pass rush win rate, according to Pro Football Focus.
Over seven seasons, Vernon has racked up 51 sacks, registering at least 6.5 per year since his second season in the NFL. His career high came in 2013, when he compiled 11.5 while playing on the opposite side of the line from five-time Pro Bowler Cameron Wake. He’s forced seven fumbles over seven seasons.
“I’m excited to be a part of the Dawg Pound, be able to represent and help build something special in Cleveland,” Vernon said. “The front office is adding pieces to the puzzle. We are trying to win. I was not expecting (Beckham to come, too). Odell is a great teammate and person. We both have our own goals of what we would like to accomplish and there is no better place to do that than Cleveland.”
A Plantation, Florida, native, Vernon, who attended the University of Miami, was selected in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft (72nd overall). He was a rotational player as a rookie, appearing in all 16 games, before landing a starting role in 2013. He started 46 of 48 games from 2013-15 before signing one of the biggest non-quarterback free agent deals with the Giants in 2016.
Vernon started 39 games over three seasons in New York. After spending the vast majority of his career at defensive end, he lined up as an outside linebacker in the Giants’ 3-4 defense this past season. He’ll be likely moving back to his comfort zone in Cleveland.
“Now he gets a chance to go back to what he naturally does: put his hand in the ground and be able to pressure the quarterback and apply some pressure,” Dorsey said. “I think when you combine him with a Myles Garrett, now you have two guys on the outside that can put an incredible amount of pressure on the quarterback, and that’s what you want in this defense. I think we’ve gotten better on the defensive line, and that’s all you can ask for.”
Zeitler, whom the Browns signed as a free agent in 2017, started all 16 games in each of his two seasons in Cleveland. He was awarded the team’s Ed Block Courage Award near the end of a 2017 season in which he played through a painful thumb injury.
Peppers, the second of Cleveland’s three first-round selections in the 2017 NFL Draft, started 29 games and compiled 136 tackles and two interceptions. His lone sack sealed the Browns’ win over the Denver Broncos in last season’s memorable Week 15 primetime matchup.
For the first time since 2008, the Browns don’t hold a first-round pick in the upcoming draft. Cleveland now has eight selections starting with its second-rounder (No. 49 overall).
“It’s always tough to let go of quality individuals who are quality players but the organization looked at this and said for the greater good of this organization and this franchise moving forward, we have to acquire these types of players,” Dorsey said. “We decided in the best interest of this organization we would make the trades here.”