Donald Stephenson placed on retired list by Cleveland Browns
By Matt Conner
Former Chiefs offensive lineman Donald Stephenson has apparently retired from the NFL after the Cleveland Browns placed him on the Retired/Reserve list.
The Cleveland Browns have reportedly placed Donald Stephenson on their reserve/retired list on Friday, per Adam Schefter, which means that the offensive lineman has called it quits on a career that started in the 2012 in Kansas City.
Stephenson joined the Browns earlier this offseason but apparently is not interested in playing for the Browns into the regular season despite signing a one-year, $2.5 million contract. Perhaps Stephenson has knowledge that his spot on the roster is not guaranteed or that he’s on the bubble. No matter the reason, it looks as if Stephenson’s NFL career is over after 6 years.
The NFL’s reserve/retired list is a place where teams can place a player until his contract is expired to keep him from using “retirement” as a way of weaseling out of his initial agreement to play for another team. Stephenson signed a one-year deal and clearly the Browns want to hold the rights to Stephenson for as long as they can. Previous offseasons have shown what can happen when a player flirts with retirement, a la Branden Albert.
Stephenson entered the NFL as the third round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2012. Scott Pioli, then the Chiefs general manager, focused considerable attention on strengthening the team’s lines in the draft. He took Dontari Poe with the team’s first round pick then switched sides to grab both Jeff Allen and Donald Stephenson in the next two rounds. Not a single player remains with Kansas City but all three have enjoyed long careers and Poe and Allen look to remain productive for years to come.
Stephenson was originally a swing tackle for the Chiefs but was never able to beat the competition for a spot on either side. He could provide value in terms of depth and versatility but even then it was clear to see defenses were keying on Stephenson when he would start. He started 21 games for the Chiefs in four seasons but he actually played in 60 of them.
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In 2016, Stephenson found a home with the Chiefs rivals, the Denver Broncos, to the tune of three years and $14 million. He started a career-high 12 games his first year with the Broncos but lost his job and served primarily as a spot starter in 2017. Then he went to Cleveland this year. Stephenson was scheduled to be suspended for the first two games of the upcoming season.