Ever since the departure of WR Joe Jurevicius, an annual trend has called for the Cleveland Browns to bring in a "veteran presence" at the wide receiver position. Although we saw WR David Patten and WR Bobby Engram with the club in camp in 2009 and 2010, respectively, neither player made the final roster. WR Davone Bess was brought in last year via a trade, but he certainly failed to live up to expectations.
This year, the Browns went after WR Nate Burleson and his 11 years of NFL experience. When the news became public about WR Josh Gordon's looming suspension, the team basically decided to go all-in when it came to bringing veteran talent in at the position. They signed WR Miles Austin (8 years), WR Earl Bennett (6 years), and WR Anthony Armstrong (4 years). What are the odds that each of those players actually makes the 53-man roster? For that, we take a look at their contract values:
Browns wide receiver Miles Austin one-year, $2 million deal: $1.7 million salary, $300,000 signing bonus— Aaron Wilson (@RavensInsider) May 21, 2014
Browns wide receiver Earl Bennett one-year deal: $730,000, includes $75,000 guaranteed, cap figure is $570,000 on minimum salary benefit— Aaron Wilson (@RavensInsider) May 21, 2014
Here is a summary of the players' deals:
|Veteran Wide Receivers on 1-Year Deals|
|Player||Exp||Base Salary||Signing Bonus||Total Contract||Dead Money|
|Miles Austin||8||$ 1,700,000||$ 300,000||$ 2,000,000||$ 300,000|
|Nate Burleson||11||$ 955,000||$ 65,000||$ 1,020,000||$ 65,000|
|Earl Bennett||6||$ 730,000||$ -||$ 730,000||$ 75,000|
|Anthony Armstrong||4||$ 730,000||$ -||$ 730,000||$ -|
|29||$ 2,655,000||$ 365,000||$ 3,020,000||$ 440,000|
Notes Based on the Veteran WR Contracts
- Look at the dead money column -- the bottom line is that it won't cost the Browns much money to cut any of these players. Heck, they could cut all four of them in August and it wouldn't cripple the team's cap space by any means, especially since everybody is on a one-year deal.
- Assuming the Browns want to minimize their losses, the most likely player to stick is WR Miles Austin. The team has already sunk a $300,000 signing bonus into him, and Austin has an incentive to want to prove he's can step in as the No. 1 receiver: if he makes the team and plays all season, that's an extra $1.7 million, in addition to what he's still making from the Cowboys.
- Because WR Nate Burleson was the first of these guys who signed and is arguably the most consistent player of the bunch, I think he's a pretty good lock as well. His contract is only higher than the two players below him because he has more years of experience, though -- he's still at veteran minimum level.
- It's interesting that WR Earl Bennett is getting $75,000 of his base salary guaranteed; again, though, it's not like we're committed to him because of that. Bennett has posted Greg-Little-like numbers throughout his career (not referring to drops).
- The contract for WR Anthony Armstrong has not been reported yet, but I don't think I'm taking a leap of faith that a guy who wasn't on a team last season would be getting the veteran minimum with no guaranteed money after a tryout. Armstrong is kind of a one-trick pony who specializes in the deep ball, something that Kevin Jones of Browns.com already said he was showing off in OTA's.
- The Browns are taking advantage of the veteran minimum cap space with Burleson, Bennett, and Armstrong. Together, they only account for $1.775 million, which is less than what Austin is set to make.
Also, keep in mind where WR Andrew Hawkins and WR Josh Gordon stand in terms of their contracts in 2014 (but each of them still have more than one year left on their contract). Hawkins will lead the team with a $5.8 million cap hit in 2014, while Gordon's 2014 cap hit is still just $1.439 million (but will sink with a suspension or ban). The cap hit for WR Travis Benjamin is $689,250.