Why would the Cleveland Browns, a team with approximately $83.55 million in cap space, need to consider cutting (or trading) players on their roster? Besides the obvious reason of saving money, there are several other reasons, which you can read in the sidebar to the right.
When I was thinking about this article a couple of weeks ago, I planned on including QB DeShone Kizer. That move has already been made; I do have to admit that I didn’t see a departure for DT Danny Shelton coming.
The roster casualties article was one that I skipped in 2017, but if you look at the years before that, it’s amusing to see that from 2014-2016, none of the players I projected as casualties are still with the club. That includes LB D’Qwell Jackson, DL Ahtyba Rubin, QB Jason Campbell, OG John Greco, QB Brandon Weeden, DL Phil Taylor, TE Jim Dray, TE Gary Barnidge, WR Travis Benjamin, C Nick McDonald, WR Dwayne Bowe, CB Tramon Williams, QB Johnny Manziel, QB Austin Davis, and FB Malcolm Johnson. So even if a player who appears on this list remains safe this year, odds are they won’t stick around for many more years.
Disclaimer: The five players are listed in order of how much money they make against the cap. A player being listed could be cut or traded from a cap-saving perspective, them not being a fit, the team wanting to upgrade the position for value, or other reasons.
1. Jamar Taylor, CB (10th Highest Cap Figure) - This will be the second year into Taylor’s 3-year, $15 million extension with the club. He’s been a durable player for the Browns the past two years, starting 29 of 32 games. Last year, he registered a career-high 62 tackles. When you look at his career, though, he doesn’t have a knack for forcing turnovers. The 3 interceptions from 2016 are it; he had no interceptions in 2017.
After a solid 2016 season with the Browns, he had ambitions of being a shutdown cornerback in 2017. Instead, he had what I’d call an average season. There is still value in having him on a football team, but I think there is a good chance the Browns will target a top cornerback in free agency or at No. 4, No. 33, or No. 35 in the draft. We don’t know if recently-acquired CB Damarious Randall will be tested out at free safety, but if he stays at cornerback, I think it forces Taylor out.
Taylor’s cap hit in 2018 is $5.275 million. Cutting him would leave dead money of $1.5 million this year from his signing bonus, leading to a cap savings of $3.775 million.
2. Corey Coleman, WR (12th Highest Cap Figure) - There is no doubt that Coleman has been one of the team’s many disappointing players to date. Injury-wise, he’s had really rotten luck by having his hand broken in each of his first two seasons, forcing him to miss 6+ games a year. In his first two seasons combined, he had 56 catches for 718 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Three games stand out for him: Week 2 as a rookie, when he had 5 catches for 104 yards and 2 TDs against the Ravens. In Week 1 of last season with the Steelers, he had 5 catches for 53 yards and 1 TD. Then upon returning in Week 11, he had 6 catches for 80 yards against a good Jaguars’ secondary. But over his last 3 games, he had just 3 catches for 37 yards, as well as a drop that clinched 0-16. The Browns have one stud outside receiver (Josh Gordon) and a stud who can work the slot and other roles (Jarvis Landry). I still have ambitions for the Browns to bring in an Allen Robinson or Terrelle Pryor in free agency, and then they can still look a young guy or an undrafted guy to fill the fourth spot.
I don’t think the Browns would outright cut Coleman, a move that would incur a sizable amount of dead money (but could probably be offset with another team signing him). I do think they could look to trade him, much like they did with DT Danny Shelton. Coleman’s cap hit in 2018 is $3.179 million. Trading him would incur a $3.338 million cap hit. Altogether, it would add $159,000 to the cap this year, but save future money and hopefully drive another player or draft pick in return.
3. Nate Orchard, DE (19th Highest Cap Figure) or Carl Nassib, DE (20th Highest Cap Figure) - This one is a tie between Orchard and Nassib. Both players were drafted for their pass-rushing potential, but neither have delivered. Orchard is entering the final year of his rookie contract, but stuck around as a rotational player last year after having a pretty good preseason. Despite being a former second-round pick, I don’t think he has any trade value. I think he’s a good guy to have around for insurance, but it’s a position that could be upgraded. He played 40% of the snaps last year.
Nassib was the second pick of the third round in 2016 and was once one of the most-hyped players from his draft class after a fantastic preseason as a rookie. Once the regular season hit, though, we’ve gotten a good look at just how often he gets stonewalled or driven away from the play. Hustle can only get you so much at the NFL level; Nassib’s best asset has been his length, which doesn’t impact plays often enough. He started 12 games last year and somehow saw 60% of the snaps.
Cleveland has been looking for defensive ends already this offseason, as they need someone else to be a serious complement to Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah. Orchard and Nassib aren’t it. I think one of them are definitely gone, and possibly both of them.
Orchard’s cap hit in 2018 is $1.421 million. Cutting him would leave dead money of $377,055 this year from his signing bonus, leading to a cap savings of $1.044 million.
Nassib’s cap hit in 2018 is $995,438. Cutting him would leave dead money of $444,876 this year from his signing bonus, leading to a cap savings of $550,562.
4. Cody Kessler, QB (21st Highest Cap Figure) - The Browns just traded one quarterback away who they didn’t have faith in, and Kessler is next on the chopping block (via a cut). Kessler performed OK as a rookie (and was better than expected, given a poor preseason), but looked like a deer in the headlights any time he was thrust into action in 2017. There was so little faith in him that both Kizer and Kevin Hogan, both with less NFL experience, leaped him on the depth chart.
Kessler’s cap hit in 2018 is $924,295. Cutting him would leave dead money of $332,394 this year from his signing bonus, leading to a cap savings of $591,901.
5. Ricardo Louis, WR (25th Highest Cap Figure) - A fourth-round pick in 2016, Louis was very much a project when he was selected. He was highly-touted for his speed, but panned for his dropped passes. Louis had the most receiving yards (357) among the Browns’ wide receivers last year, which is pretty sad to think about. He played 53.5% of the snaps on offense, which is second only to WR Rashard Higgins playing 62.1% of the snaps.
In the final 7 games of the season, though, Louis had just 2 catches for 50 yards, which pretty much coincided with the returns of WR Corey Coleman and WR Josh Gordon. I don’t think the coaching staff believes in Louis very much, and neither will the front office as they try to upgrade the back end of the receiving corps too. Additionally, WR Sammie Coates is also on the roster. He’s not a big name and could easily be cut, but he does have familiarity working in a Todd Haley offense, so he’s another guy who I think gets preference over Louis.
Louis’ cap hit in 2018 is $771,962. Cutting him would leave dead money of $283,926 this year from his signing bonus, leading to a cap savings of $488,036.
Using all of these approximations, if all five players were on the Browns in 2018 (we’ll use Orchard over Nassib in #3), they would make a combined $11.571 million. Let’s assume that the Browns decided to flat out cut Taylor, Orchard, Kessler, and Louis, and then they trade Coleman. Cleveland would create $5.74 million in extra cap space this year (plus some extra space in future years as well). This scenario would raise the Browns’ overall cap space from $83.55 million to $89.29 million.
Overall, the cap savings is negligible. But the more important factor is that it clears out several players who might be viewed as “JAGs” (just another guy), and could add some compensation in return for another player (Coleman).
Please feel free to leave your thoughts on whether the Browns should cut ties with any of the players in this article, or if there are some other players you think are worth purging from the roster.