The other day, I noted that DL Phil Taylor is a player who the Cleveland Browns could consider cutting if they planned on addressing the defensive line position significantly in free agency and the draft. Coincidentally, around the same time, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN noted that the Browns could face a situation in which they cut or try to restructure Taylor's deal.
In my original editorial, I said that the Browns would not owe anything to Taylor if they chose to cut him. I need to make a clarification on that after doing more research on the fifth-year option the Browns picked up. Andrew Brandt of MMQB explained last year that the fifth-year option becomes fully guaranteed at the start of the league year:
The "true guarantee" for the option—guaranteeing the player against release due to skill, injury and salary cap reasons—does not activate until the start of the 2015 league year in March. NFL teams can release 2011 first-rounders before the fifth-year option triggers in March with no remaining financial obligation for the option amount.
The start of the league year is March 10th at 4:00 PM ET. If the Browns release Taylor prior to that, they wouldn't owe him anything. If he's on the roster at that time, Taylor's cap hit for 2015 is $5.477 million, and there would be zero incentive to cutting him at that point.
I didn't think the Browns would cut Taylor in the first place. Given this new information, though, makes it even more unlikely in my opinion. My hypothetical scenario only played out if the Browns could cut Taylor, with no expense, in May after seeing if they could sign a big name in free agency or draft a player. With the uncertainty of whether the Browns will actually be able to achieve that, I think you have to keep Taylor under contract. They retained DL Ahtyba Rubin last year under similar circumstances (high cap figure), so why not Taylor?