With the offseason starting to take shape, 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 2017 offseason. The Browns enter the 2017 offseason with the highest cap space in the NFL at about $107.46 million.
How ridiculous is that number? About a year ago at this same time, they were projected to have about $36 million for last offseason (a number that eventually ballooned up to near $50 million). For 2017, we’re talking more than twice that amount!
One of the reasons the Browns’ cap space is so high is the fact that they are rolling over $50.12 million in unused cap space from 2016. The salary cap was estimated to be between $166-$170 million for the upcoming season, which is up from the $155.27 million salary cap in 2016.
For the purposes of estimating the Browns' cap space, we are using the amount in the middle of the projected figure ($168.0 million). When you factor in the amount the Browns are rolling over, their team salary cap is estimated at $218.12 million, which is also the highest figure in the NFL. Let's break these numbers down in a more formalized manner:
NFL 2017 Salary Cap (Projected): $168.0 million
Browns' Rollover from 2016: $50.12 million
Browns' 2017 Adjusted Salary Cap: $168.0 million + $50.12 million = $218.12 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 traded CB Justin Gilbert last year before the end of his contract, but he'll still count for $1.91 million against the cap this year. That is dead money -- we can't do anything about it.
Browns' Top 51 Cap Total: $105.39 million
Browns' Dead Money for 2017: $5.27 million
Browns' Total Cap Spent for 2017: $105.39 million + $5.27 million = $110.66 million
When you subtract the two subtotals above ($218.12 million - $110.66 million), you can see how the "$107.46 million in cap space" figure was derived.
The Browns can create even more space if they choose to part ways with the likes of Robert Griffin III, Josh McCown, or Tramon Williams. They also need to try retaining two big players of their own in Terrelle Pryor and Jamie Collins, and with Cleveland set to have the No. 1 and No. 12 overall picks, it’s always good to think about the long term in terms of saving some money, especially if you’re trying to find a franchise quarterback.
Although Cleveland has a ton of cap space, that doesn't mean they'll be able to attract any free agent they want. About half the league has at least $35 million in available cap space, which is plenty to sign one or two big free agents. Over the next few weeks, we’ll dig deeper into some potential offseason moves for the Browns, what the free agent class looks like, and more.
Note: We cross-referenced OverTheCap, Spotrac, and NFLPA database, and other sources for our data. The final 2017 NFL salary cap is typically set in late-February or early March.