Browns' Non-Football Injury Designations Lead to More Cap Space; Looking to Void Bess' Guaranteed Money?

Jared Wickerham

A few NFI designations from last season will give the Browns about $0.5 million more in cap space. Plus, we take a look at whether Cleveland will be able to void the guaranteed money in WR Davone Bess' contract.

This past Sunday, we reported that the Cleveland Browns were estimated to have around $45.46 million in cap space heading into the 2014 offseason. That number could be jumping to around $46 million, though, based on several players being placed on the Non-Football Injury (NFI) list during the 2013 season.

When a player is placed on injured reserve or PUP list, their salary is paid in full. The NFI list is different, though -- teams have the option to pay a player's salary in full, not at all, or a partial amount. Our original cap estimation had to assume that the players would be paid in full, even though it was more realistic that the players would be paid partial amounts of their salaries. It is typically impossible to guess those partial amounts, which is why we temporarily roll with the "full" amount. Fortunately for us, salary cap specialist Brian McIntyre tweeted out some Browns-relevant tweets on Thursday:

Why is it fair to not pay a player on the NFI list? If a team feels the player did something on their own accord (i.e. Bess), got injured outside of football, or had a condition unrelated to football (i.e. Bryant), the team feels like the player can't live up to their contract due to something unrelated to football.

Based on the information provided by McIntyre, I created a table that outlined how much money I believe the Browns saved on each player during the 2013 season:

Nfi-data_medium

Here is a quick explanation of each of the columns above:

  • Base Salary: The player's base salary to begin the season over a 17-week season.
  • Salary/Week: The base salary divided by 17 weeks.
  • NFI Weeks: The number of weeks the player spent on the NFI list.
  • Pay Rate: The percentage of the salary/week that the Browns decided to pay while the player was on the NFL list. For example, 75% means the Browns paid that player 3/4 of their normal salary/week amount.
  • Paid Per Week: The dollar amount translation when the reduced pay rate is applied.
  • New Base Salary: With the changes in place, we use this figure as our own personal label called, "new base salary" -- a more technical term might be something like "adjusted base salary."
  • Cap Savings: How much money the Browns saved by placing the player on the NFI list vs. if they had been on the roster or IR.

Teams can use discretion when paying these amounts. Bryant was paid the highest percentage of the players -- 75% -- after he had a heart condition. Although this wasn't a football injury, it's the type of thing in which Bryant didn't do something intentional (like go out and play basketball) to screw the team over. Bess was given a much lesser pay rate, albeit for a short period of time, and we all know the circumstances surrounding him.

For those trying to do math on Johnson's calculations, his was a little awkward because unlike the first two players, he was not on the Browns all season. He was with the Packers' practice squad for five weeks, where he made $6,000 per week (for a total of $30,000). He was on the Browns' roster for three weeks, due to the rule about claiming a player off of a practice squad (you must keep them on the roster for three weeks, even if they are hurt). During that time, Johnson made $23,823.53 per week.

For the 9 weeks he was on the NFI list, the Browns paid Johnson $58.83 per week. Sounds weird? As McIntyre pointed out in a different tweet, when you take the total amount the Browns paid him, plus what the Packers paid him, the Johnson netted a total of $102,000, which is the equivalent of what a player would make on a practice squad for 17 weeks.

The Browns can roll over the combined amount ($547,215.71) into the 2014 salary cap, which is why we projected a boost. OT Chris Faulk was also on the NFI list, but we don't have numbers on what he made, so we didn't include him in the projected savings.

---

Speaking of Bess, Pro Football Talk is reporting that the Browns are looking to void his guaranteed salary of $3.067 million for the 2014 season. If the Browns try this, Bess could appeal, but it would seem like Cleveland has leverage since Bess ended last season on the NFI list.

Assuming the Browns succeed in their attempt to void the guarantee, keep in mind that this merely means the Browns would have more options, rather than having to outright cut Bess. In other words, Bess could still make $3.067 million in 2014, but it wouldn't be guaranteed -- Cleveland could evaluate Bess closer to training camp time to determine if he's mentally stable enough to continue playing football. Their other option would be to just cut ties with Bess right away, and they wouldn't be on the hook for a dime of Bess' remaining contract.

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