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 2016 offseason. The Browns enter the 2016 offseason with the ninth highest cap space in the NFL at about $35.99 million.
One reason the Browns' cap space is high is because they are rolling over $20.73 million of the space they had remaining at the end of 2015 (as long as they inform the NFL that they are doing so, which the USA Today says they did). The salary cap was estimated to be between $150-$153.4 million for the upcoming season, which is up from the $143.28 million salary cap in 2015.
For the purposes of estimating the Browns' cap space, we are using the highest projected figure ($153.4 million). When you factor in the amount the Browns are rolling over, their salary cap is estimated at $174.13 million, which is the second highest figure in the NFL. Let's break these numbers down in a more formalized manner:
NFL 2016 Salary Cap (Projected): $153.4 million
Browns' Rollover from 2015: $20.73 million
Browns' 2016 Adjusted Salary Cap: $153.4 million + $20.73 million = $174.13 million
How much money do the Browns already have committed toward the 2016 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 WRlast year before the end of his contract, but he'll still count for $362,364 against the cap this year. That is dead money -- we can't do anything about it.
Browns' Top 51 Cap Total: $137.45 million
Browns' Dead Money for 2016: $0.69 million
Browns' Total Cap Spent for 2016: $137.45 million + $0.69 million = $138.14 million
When you subtract the two subtotals above ($174.13 million - $138.14 million), you can see how the "$35.99 million in cap space" figure was derived.
Once again, the trend continues in which a new front office for the Browns is in great shape when it comes to cap space. It has already been said that the Browns don't believe in building a team by spending big in free agency, but that doesn't mean the team can't seek a starter -- like WR Marvin Jones of the Bengals -- or a couple of reserves to fill the back end of their roster.
On average, teams have to allocate an average of $5 million toward their draft picks, and Cleveland practically has two first round picks for the third year in a row. The biggest free agents for the Browns this year are WR Travis Benjamin, RT Mitchell Schwartz, ILB Craig Robertson, and FS Tashaun Gipson. Schwartz will command the biggest deal, while Benjamin is reportedly close to an agreement. Gipson is a tricky one when it comes to considering his value.
The team could also experience some big-time roster moves over the next couple of weeks that impacts their amount of cap space. C Alex Mack can choose to opt out of his contract until March 4th, which could take $8 million off the books in 2016. The team will also likely cut QB Johnny Manziel on March 9th, but with a possible suspension looming, there is no telling right now how much dead money Cleveland would owe him. WR Josh Gordon could be re-instated too, which would put his cap figure of around $1 million back on the books.
There could also be several players who the Browns part ways with (i.e.) to make the cap space 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 2016 NFL salary cap is typically set in late-February or early March.