The Cleveland Browns have been in no danger of coming close to being over the NFL’s yearly salary cap. And they don’t appear in danger of reaching the upper limits of their spending capacity any time soon, given that they have at least $14 million in salary cap space at their disposal presently and probably will have more once the roster is trimmed down to 53 men at the end of training camp.
But what does concern the Browns—or at least seems to—is the “salary cap floor,” a provision built into the NFL’s 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement that mandates that teams must spend 89 percent of their cap space. This isn’t a year-to-year thing, however; instead, the 89 percent cap floor rule spans four seasons at a time, the first being 2013 through 2016. That means the Browns must spend 89 percent of their available cash relative to the total salary cap space given each team over that four-year period.
The penalty for being non-compliant with the cap floor is far less severe than the punishments imposed on teams being over the cap, such as losing draft picks or having contracts voided. Instead, the extra cash goes straight to the NFLPA, the players’ union. Though not an ideal situation, should the Browns have to face it, there are no real repercussions to not being floor-compliant. And regardless, the Browns aren’t in danger of missing their spending requirements in this current four-year period.
In 2013, the NFL’s per-team salary cap was $123.6 million. It jumped to $133 million in 2014, and was $143.28 million this year. Though we do not know exactly what the cap will be in 2016, based on the jump of $10 million per year over the last three years, we can currently assume it will be around $153 million next year. That means that the total cash handed each team by the league totals approximately $552 million from 2013 to 2016.
The Browns, who have continued to carry cash over from each year, has had more than that amount to spend. But that doesn’t matter. The salary cap for every team is that $552 million figure. Further, the $14 million-plus the Browns carried over from the 2012 season does not count against their floor figure, as it’s money that is not part of the four-year window. The Browns spent $124,480,971 in 2013, $136,041,379 in 2014 and currently have $138,496,530 on the books as their Rule of 51 or Top-51 cap number for this year. And as their player contracts currently stand, they are poised to spend at least $132,907,412 in 2016, according to Spotrac.
Year NFL Salary Cap Browns’ Spending 2013 $123,600,000 $124,480,971 2014 $133,000,000 $136,041,379 2015 $143,280,000 $138,496,530** 2016 $153,000,000* $132,907,412* Total $552,880,000* $531,926,292*
*Estimated **To Date
Rounding up, the Browns thus will have spent $531 million from 2013 to 2016, or 96.2 percent of the $552 million they had to spend according to the CBA. So while the Browns might be a cash-rich team, they aren’t in any danger of not spending enough money—or in danger of handing out high-value contracts to players who don’t deserve them in order to become compliant, which has been one major worry connected to the establishment of the cap floor.
The cap floor is mainly sound and fury, signifying very little. The Browns—and likely all 32 teams—are not going to be forced to overspend in 2016 to fulfill their requirements. But remember: Even if the Browns someday are not compliant with the cap floor, the punishment is so minor that it will not force the team to unnecessarily throw money around where it is not advisable. That is a concern for the future, though, because as far as the 2013-2016 period, the Browns will have satisfied the league’s spending requirements. There really is no need to worry about the Browns’ spending either too much or too little for the foreseeable future.
All contract and salary cap data via Spotrac.com unless otherwise noted