The salary cap is often talked about from one extreme to another. When the New Orleans Saints sign QB Derek Carr to a lucrative deal despite being in “cap hell” for a better part of the decade: “Salary cap is not real.” When teams start releasing veterans and restructuring contracts just to make it to the new league year: “Salary cap can kill a team if not managed right.”
Somewhere in between is normally true. The salary cap is real but it is flexible.
For the Tennessee Titans, under new management, the salary cap led to center Ben Jones and a slew of other players being released:
BREAKING: The Titans are releasing center Ben Jones https://t.co/wWb33bqfEF— Buck Reising (@BuckReising) March 10, 2023
Tennessee is still paying over $8 million in dead cap money for Julio Jones in 2023 despite him playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2022. The salary cap is for sure real.
In Jones, a Pro Bowler in 2022, a talented center hits the market and, perhaps, displaced Cleveland Browns free agent Ethan Pocic at the top of the list at their position. Jones has not graded below 70 overall for Pro Football Focus since his rookie season in 2012.
Like J.C. Tretter’s time in Cleveland, Jones is starting to show his wear and tear. At 34 years old in a couple of months, Jones has played in over 10,000 snaps in his career and missed his first significant time, five games, last season.
Historically, Jones has been better as a run blocker than in pass protection.
While the Browns may not be interested in Jones as a long-term piece, he could become an option on a cheap one-year deal or impact the market enough for another center to fall to Cleveland.
The salary cap has made a few veterans available already this offseason and a few more will likely become free this weekend. We will see if the Browns can find a few cheap deals through that process.