One of the many difficulties for many Cleveland Browns fans is that the narrative is that the team is not only without first-round draft picks but are also without cap space to make changes. While the first part is true, the NFL draft is not limited to only the initial round with talent available throughout.
The second part is just not accurate.
While the Browns are currently projected to be slightly over the salary cap, GM Andrew Berry has structured contracts in a way that he can easily make cap space available.
The other narrative that is generally incorrect is that restructuring just “kicks the can down the road.” While it is accurate in that cap hits are moved forward, many teams have been able to structure their rosters in ways that allows them to constantly add players at times that they need to.
Also, almost universally at this point, teams can restructure contacts without the need for the player's approval.
While no team can keep all of their talented players and add free agents consistently, good general managers structure their payroll in ways that allow for flexibility. The New Orleans Saints, for example, have been in “cap hell” for about a decade but are currently hosting QB Derek Carr and could add him at a hefty salary.
This simple graph shows why this is possible for the Saints and how the Browns are not in such a bad place with the cap:
Yearly tradition that the Saints enter free agency with the least amount of cap space, but will have the most cap maneuverability via restructures to be cap compliant thanks to Khai Harley's wizardry pic.twitter.com/vwQNMBCZlO— Arjun Menon (@arjunmenon100) January 10, 2023
Simply speaking, the graph shows that there are 10 teams with less current cap space than Cleveland. It also shows that only four teams can quickly create more cap space than the Browns. Much of that comes from restructuring Deshaun Watson’s contract but not all of it.
Berry has the ability to create a ton of cap space in 2023. He may not choose to do it all but the narrative that Cleveland can’t make moves is inaccurate. With the salary cap continuing to rise, the Browns are in a position with their roster to try to make a Super Bowl run in the next two to three years. While it may impact the team in 5 to 10 years, New Orleans is proof that it doesn’t have to.