Coupled with the probable release of Jamir Miller, the Browns appear to be close to the $75 million 2003 salary cap after today's release of Dwayne Rudd, Corey Fuller, and Dave Wohlabaugh. The Browns need to be under the cap by Friday.
However, a quick analysis also suggests that the team may need to take additional steps, beyond releasing Miller, to get under the NFL's salary cap by the deadline.
According to our calculations (which were a half million dollars lower then figures reported on CBS Sportsline earlier in the week) the Browns active roster now translates into a cap number of $85,737,000. Today's moves saved $3.9 million against the cap (details below).
Due to salary cap acceleration for Rickey Dudley and the three veterans released today, however, the Browns will have over $7.5 million in "dead money" counting against this year's cap. That $7.5 million represents signing bonus money for released players which counts against the cap and is in addition to the $85,737,000.
Between the dead money and active roster, our calculations show the Browns currently have a total cap figure of $93,300,000. Once Miller's cap hit is removed, which is around $18 million, the Browns are down to $75,300,000.
Naturally, the usual caveats and mea culpas apply to this analysis, given the incomplete information at the disposal of anyone outside the organization. The numbers we use are not precise and merely serve to provide an approximation of the cap.
Since we cannot calculate the Browns cap precisely, the team may still be as much as $1 million over the cap, even when Miller is released. It is entirely possible, however, using slightly different numbers quoted by ESPN's Len Pasquarelli earlier in the week, that Miller's cap hit may be higher than our figures and therefore his release enough to get the Browns under the cap. Either way, the team will be close to the $75 million salary cap.
The salary cap situation is far from over. Additional restructuring and cuts will be required to give the team room to resign either the veterans released today or other free agents.
Here are the detailed cap impacts of today's moves, as seen by an amateur capologist.
1. Dave Wohlabaugh Released
Wohlabaugh's 2003 salary of $3.7 million is saved, as is his pro-rated signing bonus of $714,000. Those amounts totalled to a 2003 cap hit of $4.414 million.
Unfortunately, cap acceleration comes into play to take away part of those savings. Wohlabaugh signed a contract which provided a signing bonus of $5 million that was originally spread out over seven years. The remaining three years of signing bonus now accelerates to this year's cap, resulting in $2.1 million of "dead money" in 2003. Net Cap Savings: $2,271,429.
2. Corey Fuller Released
Fuller hit the cap for $3.9 million in 2003. Of that, $1,500,000 was in the form of base salary, and another million was in a roster bonus. The team saves those amounts directly. Fuller also had another $1.3 million signing bonus hit against this year's cap, coming both from his original signing in 1999 and the signing bonus which accompanied his renegotiated contract last year. This was the last year of his contract, so acceleration does not come into play. Net Cap Savings: $2,500,000.
3. Dwayne Rudd Released
Rudd would have counted $5,165,000 against this year's cap if he had played. With his release, the team saves his $4,025,000 salary and the $1,140,000 portion of the signing bonus which resulted in the total cap hit. Because he was released with several years remaining in his contract, the remainder of Rudd's signing bonus accelerates to this year's cap. Some simple math says that amounts to $3,420,000 against the 2003 cap. Cap Savings: $1,745,000.
4. Claybrooks and Moore Signed
According to figures from the NFLPA, the two players will earn $750,000 total in salary this year. No contract terms were released to the media, so it is very possible that the NFLPA's information is outdated or doesn't contain bonuses which would apply against the cap. Noting this, we will use the figures supplied by the NFLPA.
The two new salaries, however, are not an additional $750,000 charge against the cap. Since only the top 51 players are counted (with bonuses for players outside the top 51 counting as well), two players with lower salaries drop out of the top 51. Those two players are Thomas Pittman and Kalvin Pearson, who are signed at $300,000 per year. Neither have bonuses which have been reported. Resultingly, their $600,000 in salary is pushed out of the top 51 and results in a Net Cap Cost: $150,000.
5. Contract Offers to RFAs
Michael Jameson's contract will not count against the cap because, as it currently stands, his $300,000 salary is not among the Top 51. The other contract offers, however, will count against the cap as of Friday. The expense of the contracts to Jamel White and the other four restrictied free agents is $3,738,000. However, because of the Top 51 rule, five contracts at $300,000 are pushed out of the group which is counted in the cap. That returns $1,500,000. Net Cap Cost: $2,238,000