I know a lot of people are frustrated with the Browns today as free agents get signed in places like Washington, Buffalo, Tampa Bay and elsewhere. The Browns are estimated to have $17.4 million plus the $1.6 million in awarded money from the Redskins and Cowboys penalties. It is one thing to hear $19 million and it is quite another to try and understand how the Browns are as bad as they have been and yet aren’t tops in the NFL in terms of salary cap space. So I went and did the best I could to figure out the 2012 cap figures for Browns players just to get a feel for how this team is built financially.
Just a couple of disclaimers. Piecing together salary cap info that is 100% accurate is nearly impossible unless you work in the league offices. I took some liberties pro-rating signing bonuses and estimating other bonuses in certain cases. Still, even if my margin of error is 5% it should still be educational to see just where all the money is. Also, I filled up the end of the roster with any old guys who are making around league minimums in order to get the roster size up to 55 which it would be for the regular season.
In the end, with my estimating I got the Browns salary cap in 2012 to be just north of $105 million which gives them just over $15 million in salary cap room. That means in all my estimating I ended up being a couple million high over the course of the roster.
|NAME||POS.||AGE||Experience.||2012 Cap Number|
|Ward, T. J.||DB||25||2||1,008,750|
Some interesting notes. Of the major players under contract, twelve of them are set to come off the books for 2013 to the tune of about $26 million. So, if the Browns go into next season near or below the salary cap they will have $26 million coming off the books already. That includes Sheldon Brown, Scott Fujita, Phil Dawson, Ben Watson, Jayme Mitchell, Josh Cribbs, Brandon Jackson, Kaluka Maiava, Mohamed Massaquoi, Ray Ventrone, Reggie Hodges, and Dan Gronkowski.
Out of that list of players, it would be nice if the Browns had incentive to keep Josh Cribbs, Brandon Jackson, Kaluka Maiava and maybe (maybe) Mohamed Massaquoi.
What does this mean for building a team? Well, the Browns have the 4th pick and the 22nd pick this year. A.J. Green was the 4th pick a year ago and his cap number for 2012 is probably around $4.5 million. Colts offensive lineman Anthony Costanzo was the 22nd pick a year ago and his 2011 cap number was about $2 million. Right there you can chop $7 million off the cap for two guys who should become important starters for the team.
In addition the Browns have the 4th pick in the second round and will have to have roughly one million available per year for that pick. Add in the rest of the rounds and the Browns need to have somewhere north of $10 million available in cap space just to sign their draft picks.
Yes there is other flexibility if the Browns decide to restructure someone or cut a veteran, but not tons and tons. The next time you think the Browns should sign career #2 receiver Pierre Garcon for $42 million over five years, keep this in mind. The Browns also want enough room to consider bringing back Peyton Hillis, re-signing Dimitri Patterson and hopefully finding a right tackle and/or defensive end.
Sorry to say folks, but this rebuild is still over a year away as the Browns continue to load up in the draft and wait out contracts to turn the roster over. As far as free agency goes, it doesn’t really seem like the Browns are sold on Flynn, so don’t expect them to sign any free agents for much more than the Brandon Jackson $2.5 million level at most.