Best & Worst Contracts 2014: Cleveland Browns


The focus of today’s best and worst contracts is the Cleveland Browns.

Best Contract: Ben Tate

Ben TateFrom the moment the Browns traded RB Trent Richardson all we heard was how hot they were for Ben Tate. At the time Tate, a member of the Texans, was one of the higher regarded backup runners in the NFL, someone who usually stepped in when Arian Foster needed a break and put up great numbers in those limited chances. People talked about how Tate could be a featured back in the league and was going to be asking for a contract in the same realm as players like Ray Rice and Matt Forte.   Though the Browns front office had some changes in 2014 the rumors held firm about how Tate was a perfect fit for the offense and that the Browns wanted him.

Cleveland wisely waited free agency out while free agent after free agent running back signed elsewhere. Toby Gerhart received $4.5 million guaranteed in Jacksonville. Donald Brown signed in San Diego for $4 million guaranteed. Joique Bell re-upped with a $4.3 million guarantee from the Lions. The Giants dropped $2.98 million on Rashad Jennings. Tate should have earned more than these players, even following his injury plagued 2013 campaign, but the Browns ended up locking him up for $2.5 million guaranteed.

If healthy, Tate would earn $3.25 million in the first year of his contract, the lowest of the group besides Jennings who would earn $3 million. Jennings would carry, however, over $1.6 million in dead cap charges if released in 2015 while Tate carries just $750,000, giving him much less protection in the contract.

While nobody knows if Tate can be effective as a starter, the Browns have nothing significant invested in him in the event he flops. A total of $1.45 million of the contract is tied to health to further reduce costs in the event he does not play well.  In a season where so many unprovens were earning close to mid tier starter money the Browns sneaked in and grabbed the highest regarded one for low tier money.  No matter how things go they will never look at this contract and feel that they compromised the future of the franchise.

Worst Contract: Paul Kruger

Paul Kruger

There were more than a few choices for this one as the Browns have gone deep on a few players in recent years to take advantage of the cap surpluses they have had the last few years. The choice for this came down to Paul Kruger and Karlos Dansby. It is close between the two as there are positives and negatives to both guys. The values of both contracts seem overly based on one season and likely will result in negative results for the team. While it was hard to decide I felt the magnitude of the Kruger deal outweighed the age negative for Dansby.

Kruger came off a breakout season in 2012 when he rose to prominence during the Ravens Super Bowl run and became a frequent point of discussion among media and fans. But Kruger had never been a standout performer before that season and had never been a starter.  Unlike the Tate contract, the Browns did not hesitate when it came to Kruger. There was no time to realize that he market was changing in regards to the one season breakout player.

The Browns ended up shelling out a contract worth $40.5 million with $20 million in guarantees for a player who had 6 career starts in four years and just 6.5 sacks in his first three years in the NFL.  The year before a far superior player in Cameron Wake signed a contract worth $8.3 million a year and minimal guarantees while Elvis Dumervil, another superior player, replaced Kruger in Baltimore with a deal worth $5.2 million a season.  In context it’s near impossible to justify what the Browns were willing to give Kruger.

In fairness to the Browns they did use a smaller signing bonus of just $6 million that may make it acceptable to release Kruger after two seasons. But its still going to cost them $20 million to get a look at him in those first two seasons, and that is a huge figure.

Not surprisingly Kruger struggled in his first season with the Browns and saw his number trend closer to his first seasons in the NFL and not his standout season in 2012.  If he has another 4.5 sack season he likely won’t be around to be the worst contract on the Browns in 2015.

2013’s Best and Worst Browns Contracts:

2013 Best Contract: Joe Thomas (Remains one of best left tackles in the NFL)

2013 Worst Contract: Paul Kruger (See above)

Click Here to Check out OTC’s other Best and Worst Contracts from around the NFL!



Free Agency Thoughts: Cleveland Browns


Key Additions: Donte Whitner ($7M per year),Karlos Dansby ($6M), Andrew Hawkins ($3.4M), Ben Tate ($3.1M), Jim Dray ($1.9M), Paul McQuistan ($1.5M), Nate Burleson ($1M)

Key Re-Signings: Alex Mack ($8.4M per year)

Key Losses: TJ Ward (Broncos), Shawn Lauvao (Redskins)

Major Cuts: D’Qwell Jackson ($5.2M cap savings), Jason Campbell ($3.3M), Davone Bess  ($3M), Brandon Weeden (-2M)

Free Agency Thoughts:

For whatever reason the Browns did not engage center Alex Mack in serious contract discussions prior to free agency, which led to them using the transition tag to hold some control over his rights. Mack would eventually sign an offer sheet with the Jaguars that would make him the second highest paid center in the NFL. The Browns matched the offer, but it is hard to really understand their logic in the entire process. If they were prepared to pay him this high they would have been able to get a better deal had they negotiated before free agency. If they just wanted him for a year then the franchise tag would have only cost a touch more.

The team paid more for Donte Whitner than the Broncos paid for TJ Ward which at best was a lateral move for the team.  Whitner received a very strong contract that will leave the Browns with a good chunk of dead money in 2016 if he does not work out. I have to think that the signing was about a culture change since Whitner is coming over from a successful franchise, because financially it would have made more sense to keep the incumbent.

The Browns also showed no worry in handing over $12 million guaranteed to Karlos Dansby. Dansby is coming off an incredible year in Arizona, but he is 33 years old and that is a large guarantee to a player that age. Linebackers can be effective for longer time frames but I am not sure how one year of that type of play justifies the investment.

Whether the Browns slow played their hand with Ben Tate or Tate simply misjudged the landscape they got him at a great bargain price in free agency. Tate has some upside the commitment here is low, so if he turns out to be nothing better than a backup style player there is nothing lost. At the least he will be a major improvement over Willis McGahee.

Signing Andrew Hawkins was an interesting move. They are betting that he is a keeper because they will pay him nearly $11 million over the first two years of the contract. They structured the deal in a way to frontload the cash so that the Bengals would not match the offer, but that was quite a bold move for a player who only had 200 yards last year and may only be a 500 yard per year player.

There were not too many surprises with the releases. D’Qwell Jackson was overpaid and the team was looking for a new face. Davone Bess clearly had issues off the field that need to be taken care of. He did file a grievance against the team to recover his salary, which was likely expected when he was released. Jason Campbell they perhaps should have tried to rework a deal with. Not that Campbell is a good player but the Browns QB situation is so poor that they probably should have kept either he or Brandon Weeden. Weeden was probably damaged goods and Campbell would have at least been cheap.

Overall Grade: C

When I look at the Browns I just see a lot of lateral movement at a touch of a higher cost. The whole Mack situation just seemed botched from the start as if they had a very limited plan and then realized how bad things would be if they lost him. Dansby, Hawkins, and Whitner all come in on the overvalued side. They have the cap space to burn so it is less of a concern than it would be with other teams. I think Whitner would be more acceptable if they did not already have a capable player in the secondary that was lower in cost. I do like some of the depth signings like Paul McQuistan and Nate Burleson while Ben Tate was clearly a bargain.

Can the Jaguars Sign Alex Mack Away from the Browns?


Apparently the Jacksonville Jaguars are going to make an attempt to sign center Alex Mack away from the Cleveland Browns. Mack had been designated a Transition players by Cleveland, which gives the Browns the right to match any offer sheet that Mack signs from another NFL team. So for Jacksonville to be able to sign Mack away the Jaguars need to craft an offer sheet that the Browns will find difficult to match. I want to look at some of the considerations that may go into this.

When teams do make moves on Restricted Free Agents, which are essentially the same as Transition players from a compensation standpoint, it often comes by attacking a team with limited cap room. The Patriots attempted to do that with Emmanuel Sanders in 2013 and the Falcons are currently doing that to the Saints with Rafael Bush.  A team simply drives the price up slightly and hopes the other team cant match. When the Baltimore Ravens signed Joe Flacco to his incredibly player friendly contract it was in part because they were fearful another team could make an offer sheet that their cap did not allow them to match.

The cap space is of no concern for either franchise and will not play a role in the Mack decision. The Browns have the most cap room in the NFL , nearly $31 million. The Jaguars are third with about $26 million. The Browns cap space already includes Mack at $10 million, so to compare situations the Browns are really sitting at $41 million in cap space. They have one of the lowest payrolls in the NFL and will likely lead the league in cap room next year as well. So the Jaguars can not muscle the Browns into not matching a contract.

For Jacksonville to sign Mack away from the Browns they likely have to craft an offer sheet that pushes the value on the player beyond what the other team feels is a reasonable offer. The Browns just did this when they signed Andrew Hawkins away from the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals had more than enough cap space to match any offer sheet for Hawkins so the Browns hit the Bengals through the cash flows of the contract.

Hawkins would be considered a low, mid-grade receiver who had one decent year with the Bengals before getting injured. Such a player might warrant a contract worth around $3 million a season with limited guarantees since you may want to part ways after just one season if improvements do not continue. The Browns got the annual value of the deal close to that level, but they paid him an average of $5.4 million over the first two years of the deal with $6.8 million guaranteed. He would be dirt cheap in 2016 and 2017($1.4 million a season), but the odds of getting to those years to realize that benefit would be slim. The $5.4 million true contract number would be in the same ballpark as players like Danny Amendola, Emmanuel Sanders, Jordy Nelson, Riley Cooper, and Julian Edelman all players who were more established and considered better players at time of signing. In no way could the Bengals justify paying a fourth or fifth receiver top “number 2” money. Cap space did not matter. It was simply a bad investment for the team.

Jacksonville will likely need to take a similar approach. They already know that the Browns are willing to pay Mack $10 million this season. Mack’s agent can probably give an overview (though that has to be taken with a cautious eye) of the range that the Browns have found acceptable in earlier negotiations. The Jaguars need to exceed that and push the market the way that the Browns did with Hawkins.

The top end of the Center market is led by the Panthers’ Ryan Kalil($8.186M) and the Jets’ Nick Mangold ($7.725M). Those two would be followed by the more recent contracts of Max Unger ($6.583M) and Erik Wood($6.512M).  Lets quickly do a very basic breakdown of the players prior to extension.

 Age (1st extension year)Game StartedPro BowlAll Pro

The two things three things that jump out to me here are the games, pro bowls, and his age.  The only other player on the list to start every game prior to extension was Mangold who played four years when he was extended. Mack’s two pro bowl selections compare to the highest end players, though he had one more year to accomplish that feat than they did. Age is a negative, though, as I could reasonably expect multiple years out of these other players and cant have the same expectation of a player who will turn 29 by the end of the 2014 season.

Mack probably has a strong argument that he should be paid above Unger but there is likely an equal argument that he should not be the market setter at the position. This is where I would probably take the Browns approach and find a way to make him a market setter in realistic cash terms and bring the annual value down in end of contract terms.  Lets look at the year by year cash breakdowns of the four players:

 Year 1Year 2Year 3Year 4

For creating an offer sheet I think that year 2 total is extremely important. The Browns would lily consider something in the $18 million range a “fair value” for Mack. The Jaguars can push that past Kalil and start turning the contract in their favor. Moving into the $22 to $23 million territory, all of which could be guarantees, sets a new market point at the position. Year 3 is likely important as well but I think that is the stage at where you begin to pull back a little and start to bring him under Kalil. By year 5 I would get him under Mangold. How would we structure such a deal?

YearAgeSalaryCumulative CashAPY

So in this case we are creating a contract that does bring the annual value down below Mangold so the team is not really setting a new level for the position, but we are doing it in a manner that will give the Browns some real consideration before matching the offer sheet, just like the Browns gave the Bengals a few weeks ago.

One thing about the above offer that could be a problem is the fact that the Jaguars would be unable to use the all cash contract structure that they typically utilize with the above cash schedule. This is because of a rule that causes the difference in salary between year 1 and year 2 to be treated as signing bonus. To avoid that Jacksonville would have to make the offer sheet contain something along the lines of a year 1 salary of $15,000,000 and year two salary of $8 million. That is still probably strong enough to make it work, but a small signing bonus to drive the first year cash might not be out of the realm of possibilities.

If the Jaguars can make the above numbers work in their all cash system they won’t be hampered by the contract as Mack gets older and his play tails off. Cap charges of $4 million on the back end will probably match his performance on the field. If he agrees to the low backend salaries it also has him setting a max level that he could expect if he is still performing well and the Jaguars want to consider an extension to allow him to play until he is 35. The Jaguars should not have any significant contracts coming due in the next two years to where high cap charges impact them in any way. Provided Mack continues to play well and be a near the top player he can greatly benefit an offensive line that is being revamped.

So let’s see how this plays out but I tend to think if you want the player in this instance you need to make some concessions on front end cost to make the other team avoid re-signing the player.  We don’t see these offers often in the NFL so it’s a good thing to study in the rare events when they do occur.




Franchise Tags, Lower Valued Positions and Alex Mack


Had an interesting question today from a fan of the site regarding the odds that the Browns would use the Franchise Tag on Center Alex Mack. I thought it was an interesting topic to write about since it involves a number of considerations a team must make in regards to certain positions.

When the NFL instituted the Franchise Tag provision they grouped players into a number of positions. The tag itself is more or less calculated based on the top 5 salaries at the position, but due to the way the market and the game has changed over the years it has made the system in some way obsolete for some positions.

The NFL groups all offensive lineman and linebackers as their own individual price points. For linemen there has been a growing disparity between left tackles and the interior linemen on a team. In recent years teams have pulled back on spending on the guard and center position. For linebackers the 34 defensive system has become dominant and the 34 outside linebacker overshadows inside linebackers and 43 outside linebackers. It makes the decision to use the tag on the Guard, Center, Right Tackle, 43 outside linebacker, Inside linebacker, and 34 Defensive End (who is lumped in with pass rushers and in most cases they have a different role) very difficult. Here are my annual value estimates for the top 5 players at various positions on the offensive line:



Left Tackle


Right Tackle






As you can see this is a pretty major disparity. The Franchise tag in 2013 for an offensive lineman is $9.828 million. The largest salary cap hit for a Center in 2013 was $9.117 for Nick Mangold and the second highest just $6.5 million. So using a tag on a Center requires a heavy one year investment at a position that normally does not receive that type of salary.

The secondary concern is while most player dislike the tag because it offers no long term job security, it can be different for some of these other positions. If Mack was to be tagged and to run out and sign his tender the Browns are now locked in for the year at close to $10 million a season. Even if they come to a long term agreement following that, the $10 million figure will need to be worked into the contract.

I think many people consider Mack to be the best Center in the NFL. Financially that distinction belongs to Ryan Kalil at nearly $8.2 million a year, but the way the league has pulled back since then probably puts his pricetag closer to $7 million a year, which would be nearly $500,000 more a season than Max Unger. Once that tender is in play you are now going from a 4 year $28 million dollar contract to a 5 year $38 million dollar contract. That’s a major difference.

So financially there are many considerations that have to be taken both from a short and a long term perspective when using the tag on one of these secondary positions whose tag value is tied to a prime salaried position.

So I would think most teams would not consider using a tag on a Center. The Browns could be of a completely different mindset however. The team has over $20 million in cap room to carry over to 2014 and they will likely hit 2014 with nearly $45 million in salary cap space. For this particular team they may not see the harm in overpaying for a position.

They could also consider the rarely used Transition tag allowing Mack to “get what he is worth” and then deciding if they want to match the offer. This tag will cost $1 million less than the Franchise tag and for the Browns no team could frontload a contract offer that they could not match since the Browns salary cap space is so high. The risk you run with that is losing a 3rd round max compensatory pick, but with so much money in cap space and holes to fill getting a compensatory pick could prove difficult. I’d personally prefer that option, but I guess we’ll need to wait and see what the Browns consider the optimal decision for Mack.




Thoughts on Browns and Colts Trade Involving Trent Richardson


The big news of the day came down when the Cleveland Browns traded RB Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts for a first round draft pick. This is an extremely unique trade for a number of reasons. One is that in season trades for starting quality players is an event that never happens. Secondly a team giving up on a first round pick this quickly is basically a non-existent occurrence which really , for the first time, illustrates the power of the new CBA rookie wage scale.

From the Colts perspective we can come up with a handful of reasons as to why they made this trade. The Colts recently lost their starting running back to injury and admitted that they needed to bring in another player to take over the job, presumably splitting downs with Ahmad Bradshaw. Colts ownership has been committed to a fast franchise rebuilding, post Peyton Manning, and does not want to see their team take a step back from the 2012 surprising playoff campaign.

This is a team that is not shy about trading draft picks and pulled a similar move last season when trading for CB Vontae Davis from the Miami Dolphins. Davis was a former first round pick of the Miami Dolphins that had more or less fallen out of favor with the organization by 2012. The Colts quickly pounced believing that first round talent made available is worth the price, which in Davis’ case was a 2nd round pick. This trade played out in front of everyone on the show Hard Knocks.

This is a similar situation where the Colts were likely blinded by the potential of grabbing a player just one year removed from being the 3rdoverall pick in the draft. Richardson’s rookie season was disappointing with an extremely low yard per carry and in my own evaluation some of the lowest running back generated yards in the NFL. From Indianapolis’ point of view they have to see that as a byproduct of the Browns terrible offensive situation which is far different than that of the Colts.

Financially the move makes sense for the Colts. The Colts had $2.98 million in cap room left to spend and Richardson will only cost the team $1,165,900 in both cash and cap this season. Assuming he replaces a player making $405,000 the net cap charge is just a bit over $808,000. So the cost itself is nothing for the year.

But moreso than that, if you are a team that believes that they are getting back a first round draft pick this becomes a financial bonanza for the team. The Browns have already paid Richardson $13,341,672 in the form of a signing bonus. The Colts only responsibility is $6.6 million in guaranteed salary over the next three years. That is essentially the same guarantee that would be given to the 23rd pick in the 2014 draft. As long as the Colts grade Richardson above that draft slot they are getting a bargain on the price.

From the Browns perspective this is a bit of a stunning move. Besides the incredibly high sunk cost they had in Richardson they will carry a dead money charge for him of $6,670,836 in 2014. It also marks a complete give up on the 2012 draft which was supposed to re-shape the Browns franchise. In that draft they drafted Richardson and QB Brandon Weeden in the first round. Today they benched Weeden and then turned around and traded Richardson.

The Browns side of this shows the power that the new CBA has given teams in regards to rookies and there are a number of reasons that they could take this move on from a financial perspective. The first reason obviously is the wage scale itself. While the charges paid to Richardson and the remaining dead money is high, it is nothing compared to the old draft payscale. The last third round pick of the old system was Gerald McCoy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. McCoy earned $15,792,500 in bonus money as a rookie. In the second year of his contract the Buccaneers paid him a $9,975,000 option bonus. All of this would have been paid well before the trade date. Had the team traded McCoy they would have been left with a dead money charge of $10,980,000 in the year following the trade. The team trading for him would have taken on $15.34 million in cap charges for the three year period. Remember that these are 2010 dollars meaning they would have been much higher in 2012.

The other CBA area that this highlights is the removal of the salary cap floor. In the old CBA teams were required to spend up to a certain level in salary cap dollars. More often this eliminated gigantic carryover dollars from year to year leaving most teams with a similar unadjusted salary cap. The new CBA removed this rule and replaced it with cash spending limits over four year periods. A team like the Browns was able to carry over $14 million dollars in 2012 and maintain a cap payroll of over $20 million in space, which will be rolled over to 2013 to easily absorb the financial impact of the move.  This would have been far more difficult before 2011.

While some may see this as giving up on the season, much depends on the internal grade they are giving to Richardson. Like I mentioned above Richardson was not productive in 2012. His style of running is a throwback to an older generation that could feature players like Jerome Bettis gaining small amounts of yards but pounding the ball into the line multiple times a game. Richardson was slow to the line and never avoided contact. He was closer to a Jamal Lewis in the later years than a real game changer like Adrian Peterson.

You have to value players as assets and if there is a team willing to give you back a first round pick it’s a move you need to make. If it was possible to forget that Richardson was the third overall pick in the draft he would have been considered a replacement level player likely destined for injury due to absorbing more punishment than needed.  The longer you wait on those players the less you will receive in return.

Looking back through some high pick trades/busts would show that lesson. Aaron Curry was selected 4th  overall in 2009 by the Seattle Seahawks.  By the end of the 2010 season the book was written on him and it was well known the staff wanted him gone. The Seahawks received a 7th round pick for Curry just two years removed from the draft and they had to pre-pay a large portion of his salary. Last season the Rams traded former number 2 overall pick Jason Smith to the New York Jets. Again Smith had fallen out of favor with an organization and coaching staff. They had to prepay a large portion of his salary to entice the Jets to make the trade. The Jets gave up Wayne Hunter, a journeyman tackle, for Smith.

With the Browns realizing how bad their offense was it was only a matter of time before new things were tried in 2013. Weeden was step one and Richardson would have been step two at some point. Once that occurs his value plummets barring a turnaround in performance.  Even if he wasn’t benched it becomes two years removed from a draft and teams would hear all offseason about how the Browns don’t want him anymore. You go from earning back a 1st to a 2nd or maybe far worse. Remember that cutting Richardson could never happen because his salary was fully guaranteed with no offsets so they had to find a trade partner to move him.

While this may look like the Browns blowing it up my feeling is they believe that they will get similar performance from a Willis McGahee type player that they would from Richardson. Even if he doesn’t all that happens is the Browns will improve their draft position. The st6rategy here is to amass draft picks and have the ammunition needed to draft a QB even if they fail to be bad enough to pick one themselves. If not they should be in a position to grab good offensive talent, an area where the Browns are woefully short on spending. All the cap room they are creating could allow them to go into free agency and look at players like Jay Cutler and surround him with high draft picks, which may be Plan B at this point.

The other aspect that this trade brings up is the short leash which players should be on under the new CBA. Under the old CBA salary cap charges dictated playing time and the fact that you had to hold onto busts for a long time. That CBA helped players such as David Carr and Mark Sanchez earn lucrative extensions despite mediocre performance. It allowed for players like Joey Harrington to get way more opportunities than the play deserved. Teams are no longer financially bound to these high drafy picks and it plays into the fact that teams should be trying new things when the players fail.

This is more in respect to Weeden than Richardson, but it is a smart football decision to sit him and see if there is anything else on the roster. At the worst you are stuck with a player on a salary that is representative of a backup salary. It is easy to justify putting him on the bench. It’s why is so mind boggling that a team like the Jaguars is so desperate to get something out of Blaine Gabbert. His contract doesn’t force him onto a team anymore yet the Jaguars are treating it like it does.

So while it has been a tough decade to be a Browns fans today’s moves show me an organization that at least “gets it” in regards to rookie management. They understand the new CBA and what it means. Evaluate what you have and if you don’t like it find a trade partner before they realize you are abandoning ship. Cleveland moved on today and that is a great thing for that city.

For the Colts this carries low risk financially but they need Richardson to play like a top level talent to make it worth it,. The team has many holes and I’d be a little worried about the trades of high picks. They have amassed large cap space to spend and Id expect them to be active in free agency again. They were big spenders in 2013, but long term building through free agency is often not the way to build a perennial contender. Richardson is young so the age isnt an issue here but he has to perform better than their draft slot they gave up to make this a good decision from their side rather than an impulse splashy move that grabs headlines and does little to improve the team.

We’ll get the cap figures updated tomorrow to reflect the trade.

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Best & Worst Contracts: The Cleveland Browns


A few weeks ago Jason LaCanfora published a list of best and worst contracts in the NFL so I thought it might make a good idea for us to do the same here at OTC, with a team by team approach. I’ll try to be a bit more analytical in terms of why money was paid and how it fits in the market, but the general premise is the same. The one key difference is outside of restructured rookie contracts under the old CBA we will only use veteran contracts as there is a big difference between best draft picks and best contracts.  Please note that there is a difference between a bad player and a bad contract when discussing some of the selections. Clicking on a players name will take you to his salary cap page.

Best Contract: Joe Thomas

There is little to choose from in this area on the Browns. The team is made up of rookie contracts and lower cost players with minimal futures on the team, so we’ll go with Thomas, the highest priced player on the team.

Often times we overrate our stars due to draft status but that is not the case for Thomas. Thomas has proven to be the best Left Tackle in the NFL and most consistent player at the position. It is more or less a given that each year nobody will be better, making him irreplaceable.  Because the Browns were willing to spend so much money on Thomas the contract had the potential to be a weight around the neck of the organization, but by acting proactively the Browns received a cap friendly contract despite the high price tag.

The Browns extended Thomas with one year remaining on his contract and used large guarantees in the front end of the contract rather than a large signing bonus, making the cap hits very affordable throughout the life of the deal. While this strategy can prove risky, with Thomas’ 4 year track record he was the ideal candidate for the move.

Thomas is now under contract until the age of 34 and with no dead money from 2016-2018 the Browns could easily escape the deal in the event Thomas was ever injured or became less effective when older. In fact the deal was structured in a way where the Browns could have moved on without issue by 2013. If the market for tackles continues to deteriorate the lack of prorated money in the deal at least gives the Browns a possibility to work his figures down as well.

paul krugerWorst Contract: Paul Kruger

The Browns are a team in a position where they likely have to overpay to attract players and they did just that with the signing of Kruger. Kruger had a terrific season in 2013 with a great late season push for the Ravens that saw his name becoming a common point of discussion among announcers. It is certainly easy to look at that and think that Kruger is a dominant player, but he really is not, at least not yet.

The Browns pounced quickly on Kruger before realizing that the rest of the NFL was no longer going crazy in terms of dollars for anyone who can sack a QB. Kruger only has 6 career starts and has yet to post more than 9 sacks in a given year. The Browns were willing to shell out over $40 million for Kruger of which nearly half is guaranteed.

As a point of reference Cameron Wake the prior year signed a deal worth only $8.3 million a year and far less in guarantees. Wake was a proven starter that had produced 22.5 sacks in the two years leading up to his new deal as well as multiple pressures. His former team replaced him with Elvis Dumervil, who had 20.5 sacks over the prior two seasons, for $5.2 million a year and $11 million in guaranteed salary.

Though Kruger’s deal will allow the team to escape it in 2015 and the team is so filled with young talent that their salary cap can absorb a bad deal if Kruger does not work out, the Browns could have negotiated a far better more team friendly contract with Kruger.

Check out Our Other Best & Worst Contract Articles

AFC East: Buffalo BillsMiami DolphinsNew England PatriotsNew York Jets

AFC North: Baltimore RavensCincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers (July 1)

An Offseason Look at the Cleveland Browns

For whatever reason there just seems to be no team more non-descript in the NFL than the Cleveland Browns. It just seems that year after year the team is a meaningless franchise. In the last 10 years they have only had one season with more than 6 wins and their last playoff appearance came in 2002. They are now on their third front office reset in the last five years, turning to Mike Lombardi who has been off the field and in the TV studios for the last 5 years to try to save the team.

Cap Positions

You won’t find too many more teams with more cap space than the Browns, which I currently have estimated to be around $45 million in 2013. The have what I believe is the fourth lowest real payroll in the NFL with only $66 million and change being spent on active contracts. So this is not a team that is going to be forced to make any to create cap space. These are simply going to be moves made to get better.

Who might be in trouble in Cleveland?  LB Chris Gocong is coming off surgery and missed the entire 2012 season. He may not fit in with the teams’ new defense and is owed $4.55 million in cash compensation this year. QB Colt McCoy earned a hefty escalator in his contract to bump his salary to $2.325 million, which could be considered a bit pricey for someone just as likely to be the 3rd string QB as a starter. This is the final year of McCoy’s contract so a release post June 1 will not hurt the 2014 salary cap in any matter which would make me believe that he will at least see the summer and get to compete for the job unless another team offers a trade. McCoy has no offseason bonus money due to him.

Notable Free Agents

K Phil Dawson has been given the franchise tag designation two years in a row, which essentially makes him ineligible for another franchise tag in 2013. Per CBA rules a player tagged for the third time has the option of taking a salary equal to the average of the 5 largest salaries at the highest paid position in the league from the prior year, which is always going to be Quarterback. So using the franchise tag on Dawson would be approximately $15.261 million in guaranteed salary. While that would be comical if it happened I am guessing there is no chance it will.

Other free agents include CB Sheldon Brown, KR Josh Cribbs, and TE Ben Watson.

Rookie Pool

The Browns look to have six picks in this years draft. They used their second round pick in the supplemental draft last year and will flop 6th and 7th rounders with the Philadelphia Eagles to complete a trade from last season. My estimate for their year 1 salary is $5,434,322

PickSB2013 Cap2014Cap2015Cap2016CapTotal
Round 16$10,268,736$2,972,184$3,715,230$4,458,276$5,201,322$16,347,012
Round 36$671,252$572,813$692,813$702,813$722,813$2,691,252
Round 47$643,172$565,793$655,793$745,793$835,793$2,803,172
Round 56$201,972$455,493$545,493$635,493$725,493$2,361,972
Round 65$117,932$434,483$524,483$614,483$704,483$2,277,932
Round 67$114,224$433,556$523,556$613,556$703,556$2,274,224