Cleveland Browns general manager Andrew Berry spoke with an air of confidence last week when asked about the team’s salary cap situation.
The Browns are currently a bit more than $13.4 million over the salary, but Berry addressed the situation at the NFL Scouting Combine by pointing out that the league’s rules are “flexible” and there are several ways that teams can create cap space, including releasing players, swinging a trade or restructuring a deal with a current player on the roster.
Berry already announced plans to release safety John Johnson III to save $9.75 million and there are a handful of players who could be in line for the restructured contract discussion, with quarterback Deshaun Watson being at the top of the list.
Watson is currently toting a cap charge of $54.9 million for the upcoming season, but if Berry wants to talk about changing that, Watson is on board, according to cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot.
There is no word on which direction the Browns and Watson will go on a restructured deal because, as Berry pointed out, there are a few available options. The club can convert part of Watson’s base salary into a signing bonus, add voidable years to the contract, or give Watson an extension.
No matter what they ultimately do, it should be noted that Watson is going to receive every penny of the $230 million guaranteed contract, so there is really no risk in him working with the Browns to help provide some flexibility to add players to the roster.
One other area that is worth watching is the timing of Watson’s restructuring. With the Baltimore Ravens and quarterback Lamar Jackson currently in a contract stalemate, the Ravens have until Tuesday to decide if they want to place the franchise tag on Jackson. If the Ravens do that, they would be choosing between the exclusive franchise tag of around $45 million, or the non-exclusive tag at a cost of around $32.4 million.
The exclusive tag price is calculated by averaging the top five salaries at a given position, so if the Browns hold off until after Tuesday then Watson’s current salary will help drive up the price the Ravens would have to pay Jackson.
#Browns Currently Cap Space ($11,650,552)— Jack Duffin (@JackDuffin) February 28, 2023
Watson +$35.936m (post Lamar tag, costs Ravens more)
Cap Space $53,475,488
Browns don’t need permission to restructure!https://t.co/mDrfBcHuik
While Watson’s contract puts him at the top of the restructuring list, Berry could also approach a few other high-priced players in the weeks to come, including defensive end Myles Garrett, cornerback Denzel Ward, running back Nick Chubb, and guards Joel Bitonio and Wyatt Teller.