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2023 NFL salary cap set, up $16 million from last year

Browns still have some work to do to create cap space

NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Browns have been aggressive in signing players to contracts and pushing money down the line for salary cap purposes. Whether it was the Deshaun Watson, Myles Garrett, Nick Chubb, Joel Bitonio, Denzel Ward and Wyatt Teller contracts, restructuring Amari Cooper’s contract or putting void years on the end of deals, such as Jadeveon Clowney, GM Andrew Berry has been aggressive.

The team also rolled over a large amount of cap space, around $27 million, going into the 2023 NFL season. That rollover cap helps but doesn’t even get the team into positive cap space.

Today’s news that the NFL informed teams of the exact increase in the salary cap also helps but keeps Cleveland in the negative:

Berry has been operating with what seems to be the assumption that the cap will continue to go up significantly over the next few years. With new streaming, gambling and television money coming into the league over that timeframe, it is likely that Berry will be proven right.

For now, the Browns will have to quickly get to work but have a chance to open up some significant space. The following are ways they could do so quickly:

  • Restructure Watson’s contract - This just gets the QB money sooner and pushes cap hits down the road. This one move saves the team $33 million in cap space and would give the $19 million in space to use
  • Restructure Garrett’s contract - Saves the team $12 million in cap space this year
  • Cut John Johnson III as a post-June 1st move - Saves the team $9.75 million this year

Just those three moves would give Berry $40 million in cap space to work with this year but would move those cap hits to future seasons. With highly-paid players, Cleveland will have to be cautious in assuming dramatic cap increases and balance keeping players versus kicking the can down the road.

For now, Berry is right that the salary cap will continue to expand, and pretty dramatically, but assuming that will happen could be dangerous.