Now that the Cleveland Browns have made additions and subtractions to their roster in the early stages of free agency, it’s a good time to take a look at the team’s salary cap state as of the present date. So far, the Browns have signed four new players to contracts while cutting three veterans; they have also allowed practically all of their unrestricted free agents to pursue their careers with new teams, including safety Tashaun Gipson, receiver Travis Benjamin and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz.
The Browns have been both cautious and conservative in their free agency signings, while at the same time taking on massive amounts of dead money to relieve no longer useful players from their contracts. Their four signings—inside linebackers Justin Tuggle and DeMario Davis, guard Alvin Bailey and safety Rahim Moore—are all low-money, low-risk contracts that seem to align with the team’s new philosophy. Overpaying is not an option; finding contributors at a good price is the focus.
Moore’s contract details aren’t yet available, but considering his history—a leg injury that turned into compartment syndrome, which meant he nearly lost the leg in 2013, and a disappointing return from it, first in Denver with the Broncos and then with the Houston Texans in 2015—and there’s no way it’s a high-priced deal. According to a source, Bailey’s deal is for three years, with a maximum value of $6 million, but only $1 million of it—in the form of prorated signing bonus that will pay him $333,333 per year—is guaranteed. He has a $1 million salary in 2016 and $2 million salaries in 2017 and 2018, none of it guaranteed. He can also make up to $500,000 more this season in playing time incentives, which gives him a total cap hit this season of $1.33 million and as much as $1.83 million. Tuggle, meanwhile, has a $700,000 salary on his one-year deal, none of that cash guaranteed.
Davis’ deal, as of now, appears to be the richest of the bunch, and only nominally so.
According to Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post and Houston Chronicle, Davis’ deal spans two years, with a maximum value of $8 million. $4.1 million is guaranteed, $2 million of that coming by way of signing bonus, paid out at $1 million per year. He gets a guaranteed salary of $2.1 million for 2016 and a non-guaranteed salary of $3.7 million for 2017. He also has a yearly $100,000 workout bonus, which brings his 2016 cap hit to $3.2 million. This brings the Browns’ known free agent spending to around $5.73 million; Moore’s contract should push it to around $7 million. Value buying, indeed.
But there are other ways the Browns have spent money this offseason—by cutting players and absorbing cap hits in the form of dead money from the guaranteed money remaining on the deals. Just three roster cuts have ballooned Cleveland’s dead money spending to $13,547,315 for 2016—only four teams have higher dead money hits at present, compared to 2015 when only four teams had fewer dead money charges on the books. The releases of wideout Dwayne Bowe, quarterback Johnny Manziel and linebacker Karlos Dansby did provide the Browns with some additional money, but that was quickly offset by the even greater dead money charges the trio account for. Bowe’s release adds $4.6 million in dead money; Manziel’s adds $4,33,487; Dansby’s adds $3 million.
This, along with an estimation of Moore’s contract, leaves the Browns with around $39 million in cap space available for spending. Counting only the top 51 contracts (which is where a team’s cap number truly comes from), and they have around $42 million. But the true number is really closer to the $30 or $31 million range, with almost $11 million being earmarked for their at-present 10 picks in the 2016 draft. The Browns certainly have the ability to continue to spend, but based on their approach to free agents thus far, it doesn’t appear they will do so at a high level or at a high rate of activity. Expect a large amount of this remaining money to be carried over to 2017.
All contract and salary cap data via Spotrac.com and OverTheCap.com unless otherwise noted. Please note: Cap numbers above are my own, as both sites do not have full contract details included in their cap numbers as of March 18.