With the offseason in full swing, it's time to start thinking about the following things regarding the Cleveland Browns:
- 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 2015 offseason. The Browns enter the 2015 offseason with the third highest cap space in the NFL at about $52.40 million. The only teams with more cap space are the Jaguars ($64.42 million) and the Raiders ($53.95 million).
One reason the Browns' cap space is high is because they are rolling over $18.91 million of the space they had in 2014 (as long as they inform the NFL that they are doing so by February 24). The salary cap has been estimated at $142 million for the upcoming season by several media outlets, although the NFLPA has contested that they feel it will be much higher. When you factor in the amount the Browns are rolling over, their salary cap is estimated at $160.91 million, which is the second highest figure in the NFL. Let's break these numbers down in a more formalized manner:
NFL 2015 Salary Cap (Projected): $142.0 million
Browns' Rollover from 2014: $18.91 million
Browns' 2015 Adjusted Salary Cap: $142.0 million + $18.91 million = $160.91 million
How much money do the Browns already have committed toward the 2015 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 RBlast year before the end of his contract, but he'll still count for $750,000 against the cap this year. That is dead money -- we can't do anything about it.
Browns' Top 51 Cap Total: $107.0 million
Browns' Dead Money for 2015: $1.51 million
Browns' Total Cap Spent for 2015: $107.0 million + $1.51 million = $108.51 million
When you subtract the two subtotals above ($160.91 million - 108.51 million), you can see how the "$52.40 million in cap space" figure was derived.
For the second year in a row, GM Ray Farmer is in great position heading into free agency. Quarterback will still be the most important position this team has to figure out, but Cleveland has the ammunition to make a splash and even go after a player like NT Ndamukong Suh.
On average, teams have to allocate an average of $5 million toward their draft picks, and Cleveland has two first round picks for the second year in a row. The biggest free agents for the Browns this year are QB Brian Hoyer, WR Miles Austin, TE Jordan Cameron, DL Ahtyba Rubin, OLB Jabaal Sheard, and CB Buster Skrine. The only player who might command a significant contract is Cameron, which is why the franchise tag could come into play. Skrine's value is hard to determine, but you'd think Cleveland would like to keep him around too.
Even if the franchise tag is used and Skrine is re-signed, the Browns would still likely have over $35 million in cap space for free agency. There could also be several players who the Browns part ways with (i.e.) 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 OverTheCap.com and Joel Corry of CBS Sports for our data. Also, the final 2015 NFL salary cap is typically set in late-February or early March.