Despite the overwhelming amount of salary cap space the Browns have, you can’t call Jimmy Haslam cheap. I’ve been relentless in my criticism of cutting Joe Haden “because I don’t care about Jimmy Haslam’s money,” but I need to be fair. I understand the difference between the NFL’s accounting principles with the salary cap and what it costs for the Browns to run their team from a cash flow perspective in a given year. In 2017 Jimmy Haslam wrote a huge amount of checks for a ridiculous amount of money.
“But I thought the Browns have over $63 million in free cap space!” That’s true. The Browns’ largest cap hits in 2017 are Joel Bitonio at $12.2 million followed closely by Jamie Collins at $12.1 million. The way the salary cap works, when you pay a signing bonus, you get to divide that cost out over the life of a contract. Myles Garrett’s cap number in 2017 is just over $5.5 million with a base salary of $465,000 and signing bonus charge of over $5 million. Garrett’s rookie deal included a $20.7 million signing bonus that all had to be paid in 2017. So for Jimmy Haslam’s accounting purposes, in real life, Haslam and the Browns will scratch checks (or direct deposit) $20,273,004 to Myles Garrett this year alone so that his cap number never actually rises to $10 million in the life of his four-year rookie deal. Kevin Zeitler costs $8.4 million on the cap in 2017, but Haslam had to write checks for $18 million in 2017.
At the end of the accounting exercise, the Cleveland Browns have a salary cap amount of $96,944,437 on active players. Jimmy Haslam’s bank account is less $143,321,007 for those active players. Due to signing bonuses on free agents and rookies, Haslam spent $46 million more in cash than what’s reflected on the cap. When you consider that, you begin to have an understanding why the Browns might have played hardball with Joe Haden over his contract. You begin to understand why he might be searching for executive-level talent to insert into his front office. The financial wizardry of this Browns front office is really incredible, and it should be because that’s Sashi Brown’s background. The Browns paid Joel Bitonio $8.5 million on a roster bonus, taking all the cap hit in a single year, probably to make it easier to cut him if his injury wouldn’t have allowed him to play in the long run.
Let’s talk about “Dead Cash” for a second, though. Jimmy Haslam is paying nearly $20 million for guys who aren’t even on the team. By cutting Joe Haden, Jimmy Haslam saved money, but it will still cost him $3.25 million in cash for this season. Of course, there’s also Brock Osweiler who is costing Haslam more than $15 million to not play for the Browns this season. In total, when you consider the non-roster cash outlay on players, Haslam’s bill comes out to more than $180 million in 2017. So, you know he felt like this plan was in service of something. Otherwise, there’s no way he would agree to it all.1
It also means that when the Browns do find that quarterback who is worthy of Joe Flacco money (I kid!) they’ll have plenty of cap space to do it. The issue, of course, is if the guys who’re building this team will be the ones who will be allowed to make the pick. For all the smart contractual maneuvering, the Browns are still struggling on the football field to be competitive. And I’m sure it’s much to Jimmy Haslam’s chagrin seeing as it cost him over $143 million in cash this season to watch this roster of players struggle to find a W.
(All data used in this post was compiled from spotrac)
|CAP ACCOUNTING||CASH ACCOUNTING|
|Name||Pos||Base Salary||Signing Bonus||Roster Bonus||Workout Bonus||2017 Cap Hit||2017 Cash Hit||The Diff|
- The Browns are spending the fourth most amount of cash in 2017 of any NFL franchise, while holding the most cap room. [↩]