The Cleveland Browns enter the 2014 NFL off-season with the most cap space in the NFL. This means that ideally, the Browns should be able to lock up their own key free agents with either the franchise tag, or long term extensions. Let’s see where we’re starting:
I’m operating under the generally accepted idea that the Browns are going to use the franchise tag on T.J. Ward. Now, what is of less certainty is what the Browns are going to do with Pro Bowl Center Alex Mack. While there’s a lot of doom and gloom surrounding his contract situation, I did a little work and came up with a workable contract that would make Mack a Top 5 paid Center for the next five years.
This is a 5 year, 30 million dollar deal with a 5 million dollar signing bonus. It would keep Mack as a top 5 center for at least the next 2-3 years. He’d be in a three way tie for 2nd highest paid in 2014. It’s very generous, without going the unsustainable franchise tag route, which lumps all offensive linemen into the same pay scale, meaning Mack would get paid Joe Thomas money, to the tune of 12-14 million per year. This still leaves us in good cap position.
So, from there the Browns would likely look to sign a long term extension for Joe Haden. If we expect him to make Top 5 CB money, which we should, here’s how a 6 year, 64 million dollar deal would look, with a 7 million dollar signing bonus:
Working out that deal, while cutting Jason Campbell, would leave the Browns with $34 million dollars to spend. Now, the last major point of issue on the current roster is restructuring D’Qwell Jackson’s deal. He’s set to make almost 10 million dollars this season, which is way, way more than he’s worth. If they cut him outright, they’d surge back up to around 46 million in cap space. I don’t see that happening, but if they shaved 4 million off this seasons space (his roster bonus), and just paid him his base salary of 3 million and change, it would put us back at $36,305,969.
The only other two free agents the Browns are likely to re-sign from their current roster are Craig Robertson and Shawn Laovao, but at pay cuts to them both from their poor performances last season. Inking Robertson to a 2 year, 1.23 million dollar deal, and Laovao to a 2 year, 1.45 million dollar deal leaves the Browns at their true starting point of $35,995,969. This leaves the Browns not re-signing Oniel Cousins and Willis McGahee. Good riddance.
The unpopular decisions here are surely the idea that I’m not cutting Brandon Weeden and Greg Little. The thing is, the Browns would take a cap hit for cutting either player outright, and their salaries are fairly light to begin with, especially Little. It makes more sense to just keep them for depth than to cut either of them. With Davone Bess, either the Browns need to try and trade him, or look at litigating a deal with the NFL to recoup money from him, as he would lead to an ugly cap hit if cut outright.