Current Estimated 2016 Cap Space: $35.4 million
Expected 2016 Cap Space: $60.0 million
Estimated Rookie Cap: $10.569 million
Players Under Contract: 57
Pro Bowlers: 2
Unrestricted Free Agents: 7(4 with 50%+ playtime)
Draft Selection: 2
Salary Cap Breakdown
Free Agents to Re-sign
The Browns will face a number of tough decisions this season regarding their talent. They have some talented players who will be free agents but they may be unable to sign those players who may opt to leave for greener pastures. Because they have so much cap space it is doubtful that any losses will lead to a compensatory pick. Their best two free agents are Alex Mack, who will void his contract more or less on the eve of free agency, and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz. The offensive line is the one strength of the team and they probably should do what they can to keep both players, which will need to include top of the market plus more salaries. It is hard to see them competing in the near term if they also need to rebuild their offensive line from scratch.
Free Agents to Let Walk
Safety Tashaun Gipson was unhappy with having to play last year on the RFA tender and it showed in his play. He has a reputation for being one of the better safeties in the NFL but I don’t know what damage last season did to that thought. I would be listening closely to the talk on Gipson and consider franchising him with the pure intent to trade for a 3rd or 4th round draft pick if it does seem like a high end market will develop…Travis Benjamin had a nice season but the Browns need a more consistent presence at wide receiver. I’d pass on spending money there.
Contracts to Modify
The Browns really have no players on the roster whose contracts they should modify.
Players to Consider Releasing
If the Browns are unable to extend their center and right tackle then they should trade Joe Thomas, who could possibly get them a late first round pick from a competing team. Thomas makes $9.5 million next year which is an attractive price. Beyond trading Thomas the Browns should look to see if there is any interest in some of their contributing veterans like a Donte Whitner, who can still play but would play a much more vital role on a good team rather than a rebuilding one…Veterans Karlos Dansby ($3.5M savings), Desmond Bryant ($5M), and Randy Starks ($3M) could all be on the chopping block, some of them could have minor trade value…The team still owes Dwayne Bowe $2.85 million on one of the worst contracts signed in the entire NFL last offseason, but far better to eat that than find a way to keep him on the team. He’s been dis-interested in football for the last two years…Johnny Manziel will cost the team money and cap space to cut, but at this point they need to move him off the team. Given his antics off the field there is probably no trade market
Salary Cap Analytics by Bryce Johnston
The Browns maintain a relatively clean salary cap situation as a result of not having a large quarterback contract and having already made it through the majority of the commitments in their largest contracts. The team would possess a better Commitment Index Score and more True Cap Space if it had avoided signing veterans such as Josh McCown, Dwayne Bowe, Tramon Williams and Randy Starks in 2015. Expected Contract Value projects that these contractual relationships will likely turn out to be short-lived. Because the team appears to have little chance of contending in 2016, it may be best off releasing or trading these players, as well as other older players such as Karlos Dansby and Donte Whitner, and preserving the True Cap Space until a point in time at which it can be used in a more meaningful way with respect to the team’s position on the win curve.
Expected Contract Termination Outcomes – Expected Contract Value 2.0 utilizes an algorithm based on a player’s contract characteristics, age, position and 2015 performance to forecast probabilities as to the outcomes of contract termination decisions. The lower the Expected Outcome, the more likely the player’s contract will be terminated in 2016. A pay cut is treated as a termination. We have applied ECV 2.0 to all contracts scheduled to count $2 million or more against the 2016 salary cap with the exception of exercised 5th year rookie options. Expected Savings is the calculated by multiplying the probability a player will be released by the cap savings realized by the team upon such release.
|Player||Position||Expected Outcome||Expected Savings|
|Expected Change in Cap Room||+$24,598,687|
True Cap Space – Realizable Cap Space depicts the total amount of salary cap space potentially at the team’s disposal in 2016, and True Cap Space makes further adjustments to take into consideration amounts that are accounted for in practical terms. Most True Cap Space will be used on players currently under contract as a result of the team choosing to not release them.
|True Cap Space (2016)|
|Adjusted Salary Cap||$171,359,144|
|Prorated Signing Bonus Amounts||($26,284,253)|
|Realizable Cap Space||$145,074,891|
|Fully Guaranteed Salary||($17,141,560)|
|Minimum Salary Cap Holds||($19,800,000)|
|True Cap Space||$113,517,758|
Commitment Index – Commitment Index identifies the degree to which a team has “mortgaged its future” by measuring its net future salary cap commitments as a percentage of the average net future salary cap commitments of all teams. A Commitment Index Score of 100% is average, and a negative Commitment Index Score indicates that the team has more current salary cap space than future salary cap commitments.
|Commitment Index (2017+)|
|Prorated Signing Bonus Amounts||$28,522,815|
|Fully Guaranteed Salary||$10,007,725|
|Current Cap Space||($32,723,128)|
|Commitment Index Score||34%|
|League Rank (1st = Most Committed)||21st|
The Browns are the toughest job currently facing anyone in the NFL. They have a bad ownership group that has no patience for anything and hits the reset switch every two years. This time around they have moved outside of the NFL norms to hire people to run the front office. Some have called it a case study in analytics in the NFL, but I would put next to no weight in any failure in Cleveland given their recent history. This is a team that nobody wants to play for or remain with and it will take big money to attract or retain free agents. The situation is almost identical to the Oakland job a few years ago, with the only difference being that they didn’t throw the massive signing bonus money around. Like the Raiders they have no young talent and a roster filled with declining veterans.
If the Browns intend on hitting free agency at all this year they need to focus potential impact talent rather than hoping that either a part timer can blossom into a full time force or finding scrap heap players from other teams like they have with Dwayne Bowe and countless others in recent years. They also need to avoid the third contract type free agents only looking at second contract players. The Browns have gotten a terrible return on investment from their roster, which is generally average in spending in every area on the field, because it is loaded with older players and large amounts of third tier veterans paid as second tier players.
If Alshon Jeffery is available he would be the type of game changing talent that could help their passing game. The rest of the receivers who will be out there are all number 2 types and probably not worth it for the Browns. They would be better off at that point of hoping Josh Gordon returns and using Andrew Hawkins and Brian Hartline and a draft pick on the position.
There won’t be any shortage of young defensive linemen such as Muhammad Wilkerson, Damon Harrison, Malik Jackson, Olivier Vernon, and Jaye Howard. The type of defense the team decides on using may eliminate certain names from consideration and of those names Jackson may be a bit more developmental and Vernon more of a risk, but those are probably the type of names to select from.
The Browns do have some running backs on the team but could take a glance at the Doug Martin/Lamar Miller types who would be more reliable and take some pressure off what they hope will be a young quarterback. Linebacker is not a deep position in free agency though there might be a few younger ILB’s who are worth a look.
If they don’t believe in any quarterback in the draft they will have the option of continuing with McCown and another veteran backup or going after a Sam Bradford, Brock Osweiler, or Kirk Cousins. Of those names Osweiler is the only one worth anything simply because there should be no long term commitment. If they came away with Bradford or Cousins I think it would lead to a lot more of the same for the team.
If the Browns ownership is really committed to a long term vision, it might be realistic to see them essentially punt on this season and maybe bring in one or two bigger name free agents who they think can contribute for 4 seasons. They play in a division with three teams that have generally been good for a long time so it’s not like the Titans or Cowboys playing in down divisions that are wide open where fast turnaround is more likely.
We currently project the Browns to have a league high 11 draft picks and moving as many veterans as possible to increase that number even higher is probably the better course of action for the Browns. It’s likely that they will wind up with another quarterback in the draft and will hope that this one works out better than Manziel, Weeden, McCoy, and Quinn.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.