As predicted on these pages and elsewhere, the Minnesota Vikings have elected not to match the Browns $1.5 million offer to restricted free agent safety Brian Russell. Under league rules, Minnesota had until Friday to match the offer, but have revealed this evening that they will let Russell go to Cleveland.
Russell becomes a rare example of a restricted free agent changing teams. The Browns previously pursued Baltimore Ravens restricted free agent RB Chester Taylor, but were halted when the Ravens unexpectedly elected to match the offer.
Russell will not require any draft day compensation from the Browns. This is due to Russell's low tender, and his coming into the league as an undrafted free agent. The safety became expendable for the Vikings when they agreed to terms this year with Darren Sharper.
Russell is not considered an upper-echelon player, but fits the Browns new mold of looking for solid citizens who make the most of their athletic abilities. At present, it is expected that he will compete with Sean Jones and (primarily) Chris Crocker for the two starting safety positions.
Russell's best season was 2003, when he snagged an unexpected nine interceptions during the course of the season while making 95 tackles (78 solo, 17 assists) and registering one sack. In 2004, Russell slid to 81 tackles and a single interception, although he was credited with a career-high six passes defensed.
Details about Russell's contract have not been made available, but it is believed to be worth approximately $1.5 million. The team has not yet confirmed Russell's signing, and is unlikely to do so until Friday.