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Browns’ reserve in cap space will always be ready for a QB, like the Raiders just did with Derek Carr

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The Browns aren’t keeping a lot of available cap space just for the heck of it — they’re waiting for the right quarterback to lock up.

While we are on the theme of quarterbacks for our training camp preview for the Cleveland Browns, let’s take a look back at “what could have been” with Derek Carr.

In 2014, the quarterbacks who were selected before Carr included Blake Bortles (No. 3, Jaguars), Johnny Manziel (No. 22, Browns), and Teddy Bridgewater (No. 32, Vikings). Although Bortles has had decent touchdown to interception ratios the best two years, he's been regarded as a disappointment. The Browns’ selection of Manziel turned out to be an all-timer in terms of embarrassments. And Bridgewater, while he’s had some success, is coming off of a very serious knee injury that some doubt he’ll ever be able to truly recover from.

The Browns needed a quarterback in 2014, and despite what the results of their paid quarterback study said, the team (or should I say Jimmy Haslam) went with the flare that was Manziel. Those jersey and ticket sales might have soared for a period of time, but it definitely ended up being bad for business.

Carr, on the other hand, is the biggest success story of the bunch (and the quarterback taken after him, Jimmy Garoppolo, could also be getting a nice payday soon despite little game action). Carr’s extension is about 5 years for $125 million. Most of Carr's guarantees ($40 million fully guaranteed) are paid out in the first two years of the deal. So Oakland definitely commits to Carr for the next two years, and if something goes horribly wrong for some reason, the dead money owed to him in 2019 is just $7.5 million.

QB Derek Carr’s New Contract for Oakland Raiders

Year Base Salary Signing Bonus Roster Bonus Workout Bonus Total Cap Hit
Year Base Salary Signing Bonus Roster Bonus Workout Bonus Total Cap Hit
2017 $5,000,000 $3,056,691 $7,500,000 $175,000 $15,731,691
2018 $7,400,000 $2,500,000 $15,000,000 $100,000 $25,000,000
2019 $20,000,000 $2,500,000 $0 $100,000 $22,600,000
2020 $20,000,000 $2,500,000 $0 $100,000 $22,600,000
2021 $20,000,000 $2,500,000 $0 $100,000 $22,600,000
2022 $18,177,519 $0 $0 $100,000 $18,277,519
Total $90,577,519 $13,056,691 $22,500,000 $675,000 $126,809,210

But Oakland should expect to carry his $20 to $25 million in cap space every year through the life of his contract. Why is that figure relevant to the Browns? Because every year for the past several years, the Browns are among the teams with the most cap space in the NFL. Some people get perturbed when that cap space isn’t used up all at once.

Ultimately, the reason a large chunk of Cleveland’s cap space is kept in reserve is because the team will need it for whenever they do find their quarterback of the future; one who is worthy of the time of contract that Carr received. Then, they can get the extension done without worrying about which other key players they’ll have to cut in the process. I haven't done my own personal cap space tally for the Browns in awhile, but according to the NFLPA database, the team still has $54.7 million in cap space, which is the second most in the NFL (they’d have the most if they were carrying Brock Osweiler’s $16 million).