This is the first time since early September that there hasn't been football on a Sunday. Reality has set in -- the 2013 NFL season is over, the Super Bowl has come and passed, and most of the Cleveland Browns' coaching staff is now in place. What's next? We could certainly jump ahead to the draft, but that is not until May this year. Before that, we need to start thinking about things like...
- The team's current salary cap situation.
- Using the franchise tag.
- Re-signing our own free agents.
- Releasing players to open up more cap space.
- Signing other teams' free agents.
The first stage in that process is to look at the Browns' cap space heading into the 2014 offseason. When Mike Pettine took the Browns' head coaching gig, he cited "plenty of cap space" as one of the attractive parts of the job.
The Browns had a lot of cap space heading into last offseason ($48.9 million). They spent a lot of money long-term on two players, OLB Paul Kruger and DE Desmond Bryant, but saved up on a lot of it. Because of that, the Browns enter the 2014 offseason with the third highest cap space in the NFL at about $45.46 million. The only teams with more cap space are the Raiders ($61.3 million) and the Jaguars ($49.4 million).
One reason the Browns' cap space is high is because they are rolling over $24.54 million of the space they had in 2013. The salary cap has been estimated at $126.3 million for the upcoming season, so when you factor in the amount the Browns are rolling over, their salary cap is estimated at $150.84 million, which is the highest figure in the NFL. Let's break these numbers down in a more formalized manner:
NFL 2014 Salary Cap: $126.3 million
Browns' Rollover from 2013: $24.54 million
Browns' 2014 Adjusted Salary Cap: $126.3 million + $24.54 million = $150.84 million
How much money do the Browns already have committed toward the 2014 salary cap? To determine that, we need two figures: the top 51 salary cap figures on the team, and the amount of dead money that was committed to players who are no longer here. For example, we cut FB Owen Marecic last year before the end of his contract, but he'll still count for $102,000 against the cap this year. That is dead money -- we can't do anything about it.
Browns' Top 51 Cap Total: $98.19 million
Browns' Dead Money for 2014: $7.19 million
Browns' Total Cap Spent for 2014: $98.19 million + $7.19 million = $105.38 million
When you subtract the two subtotals above ($150.84 million - 105.38 million), you can see how the "$45.46 million in cap space" figure was derived.
The Browns are in really good shape this offseason if the front office gets it right with the decision makers of CEO Joe Banner, GM Michael Lombari, Assistant GM Ray Farmer, and Pettine. The beauty about this year (and part of the reason why people feel Rob Chudzinski was screwed over) is the fact that everything was geared toward the Browns utilizing their assets this offseason.
On average, teams have to allocate an average of $5 million toward their draft picks, and Cleveland stockpiled on draft picks in advance. It's remarkable just how few free agents the Browns have this season -- seven in total -- and major decisions really only need to be made on two of them in C Alex Mack and SS T.J. Ward. Even if the franchise tag is used on one of those players, Cleveland would still have over $30 million in cap space for free agency alone. There could also be several players who the Browns part ways with (i.e. Jason Campbell) to make that figure go even higher over the next couple of weeks. Over the coming days and weeks, we will be digging into each of these topics (franchise tag, possible cap casualties, free agents, etc) here at Dawgs By Nature, so stay tuned.
Note: we consulted several sources for our salary cap figures, but OverTheCap.com is the one we ultimately settled on. Other sources have numbers varying by about less than $1 million. Also, the final 2014 NFL salary cap will be officially set in late-February of early March, and could go as high as $128 million, which could create about $1-2 million more in cap space for Cleveland.