The Cleveland Browns mostly sat out free agency last season. They lost their top 4 free agents, leading to the expectation of 4 compensatory picks this season, and their signings were far from impactful.
This off-season, after going 1-15, many Browns fans expect the team to be far more active in free agency. They have started off well by re-signing Jamie Collins, reportedly are in talks with both Terrelle Pryor and Isaiah Crowell and have made statements that lend toward spending money this off-season.
There are also quite a few talented players in free agency that have fans getting excited about the chance to see them in the orange and brown (terrible uniforms) next season.
Sadly, this is where this normally very optimistic writer has to throw some cold water on those hopes.
3 Reasons the Browns Cap Space Doesn't Matter
1. Cleveland Is Not a Destination
While Head Coach Hue Jackson is likely to draw player's attention, Cleveland isn't a destination. This isn't a conversation about the city, the fans or the coaching staff. That the Browns have been in constant turnover and been the place where careers have, seemingly, gone to die, is problematic.
Free agents have to think about where they are going to be for the next few years and whether those bringing them in will be around. Signing to play for Hue may appeal to some but the possibility of 2 or even 3 coaches during a 4 or 5-year contract is scary.
Even if all of that wasn't true, signing on to a team that was 1-15 is a hard sell. While the Browns have set their direction and bought into it, selling free agents on a team that barely won a game is difficult.
2. Over $1 Billion In Cap Space Available in the NFL
While the Browns lead the way with over $100 million the rest of the NFL has another $1.1 billion to spend. So, while the Browns have a huge amount of money so do many other teams. 18 teams currently have over $30 million in cap space and many of them have a longer history of winning, more stability and can still pay free agents a ton of money.
While the free agent class has come very interesting players, it doesn't have enough for the $1 Billion to be spent. That means teams either massively overpay or the player has similar offers from a number of teams and can pick his spot.
While the Browns could outbid any other team, they are unlikely to blow up the current structure of contracts in the league. Every year, players set new records for their positions but, generally, those records aren't too far beyond the last record. The Browns are unlikely to set new standards and alienate their partners (other NFL owners) in the process.
No matter how much fans want upgrades over...
3. The Young Talent Needs to Develop
While this very young roster led to a 1-15 record, the Browns plan is to build around a young, cheap roster full of high athletic upside. That young roster only gets better with time on the field and practice repetitions. Signing a number of free agents to take away that time and reps goes against what they did all of last season.
While signing free agents, if they can (see 1 & 2 above), who are better makes sense in Madden like games but goes against the plan and work they did last season.
Fans don't want to hear it, understandably. We have the money, we have the needs, their are free agents and the young guys are not good enough right now. However, the only way they get better is through time. If you short circuit that, you throw the draft picks, year of development and the young, cheap roster foundation away.
The Browns could be active in free agency this year but these are 3 reasons their cap space may not be used.
Hopefully I am wrong but it may be best for Browns fans to temper their expectations.