Last week, we projected the Cleveland Browns would have $49.71 million in available cap space this offseason, under the assumption of a $130 million salary cap by the NFL. Since then, two significant things have happened: several sources are saying the salary cap will be even higher than $130 million, and the Browns cleared some cap space by releasing veteran linebacker D'Qwell Jackson.
NFL Salary Cap
First, we had John Clayton of ESPN say that the salary cap projection was being increased to $132 million. Then, Mark Maske of the Washington Post said that the cap could be $133 million. Lastly, we have Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk saying that the cap could go as high as $135 million, and that steep increases in the cap could continue in years beyond 2014. Which salary cap projection should we use? For now, I will go with $132 million.
UPDATE (2/28/14): The salary cap has been announced at $133 million. I have updated the post below accordingly.
Impact of Releasing D'Qwell Jackson
Projecting the Other Cap Casualties for Browns
Despite all of the cap space they already have, we break down how much money the Browns could save by cutting five players. D'Qwell Jackson was already cut: who else is next?
The Browns released Jackson, making him the first of several possible cap casualties. Jackson was scheduled to make $9.433 million in 2014 against the cap, which would have been second highest on the team. By releasing him before March 15, the Browns avoided having to pay him $4.1 million in roster/workout bonuses. Due to his original signing bonus, though, Jackson will account for $4.2 million in dead money against the cap this year, but they won't have to pay him anything in 2015 or 2016. The savings on Jackson is $5.233 million.
One thing we have to remember is that only the Top 51 paid players on a team count against the cap. Therefore, we can't just do a straight subtraction of $5.233 million for Jackson, because that would only account for the Top 50 cap hits on the team. The 51st-highest paid player has a $495,000 cap hit. Therefore, the savings this year from cutting Jackson really amounts to $4.74 million.
In our previous salary cap projection, we said the Top 51 players + Dead Money accounted for $105.38 million. The adjustment for that ($105.38 million - $4.738 million) is $100.64 million.
Updated Derivations of Browns' Cap Space (as of 2/28/14)
NFL 2014 Salary Cap: $133 million
Browns' Rollover from 2013: $25.09 million
Browns' 2014 Adjusted Salary Cap: $133 million + $25.09 million = $158.09 million
Browns' Top 51 Cap Total: $89.25 million
Browns' Dead Money for 2014: $11.39 million
Browns' Total Cap Spent for 2014: $89.25 million + $11.39 million = $100.64 million
When you subtract the two subtotals above ($158.09 million - $100.64 million), you can see how the "$57.45 million in cap space" figure was derived. If accurate, this would move the Browns from third to second place in the NFL in terms of most available cap space this offseason, moving ahead of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The difference between our last projection and this projection ($57.45 million - $49.71 million) is $7.74 million. Remember how I said the Browns really saved just $4.74 million this year by cutting Jackson? Add in the $3 million bump in the salary cap, and everything checks out. We'll see if any more cuts are on the way.