It is now the time in the 2021 offseason where salary cap becomes a hot discussion item.
The good news is that the Cleveland Browns find themselves in the most favorable position in the NFL when evaluating unused or carry over cap dollars from 2020.
With $30 million “extra money” to carry over from last year, this gives the Browns a little more breathing room when evaluating free agents and contract extensions.
A look at the salary cap carryover for 2021: pic.twitter.com/Q5JELBem2u
— NFLPA (@NFLPA) February 19, 2021
Since February is the only month in the calendar year where NFL fans spend time pondering the salary cap situation, let’s review what this means in the overall scheme of things.
1. 2020 Salary Cap
Each year, the NFL set the salary cap in March.
This is meant to level the playing ground so every team is starting with the same number.
It is based on NFL revenues via ticket sales and television deals among other things.
In 2020 the salary cap was $198.2 million.
All NFL teams were required to spend 89% of the 2020 salary cap number.
However, teams can carry over the unused money to 2021.
(This carry over rule has been in effect since 2011.)
Because of the pandemic, everyone knew that the NFL salary cap would take a hit.
The question was how much and how bad would it be.
It looks like it may not be as bad as initially projected.
2. Projected 2021 Salary Cap
The NFL raised the minimum of the 2021 salary cap from $175 million to $180 million, an encouraging sign to teams that it could continue to rise.
— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) February 18, 2021
The NFL has indicated the salary cap will be no less than $180 million.
Previous reporting had it dropping potentially to $175 million.
This is perceived as good news for owners who will have a little more to spend than initially thought.
Two things to remember, re: 2021 salary cap …
1) TV deals getting done, as has been the expectation, would likely make the owners more flexible in borrowing from future years.
2) A major drop in the cap hurts a LOT of people (veteran players, free agents, teams, etc.)
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) February 18, 2021
The Browns Financial Situation
This brings us back to the Browns’ financial situation.
The additional $30 million carry over puts them at a projected $210 million budget.
It far exceeds the Browns AFC North rivals which is more good news.
The Ravens have $600K, the Steelers $5M, and the Bengals $10M to add to the estimated $180 million figure.
In addition, the Jaguars, Jets, Cowboys, and Eagles are in fairly good financial positions.
Does This Mean The Browns Are Cheap?
There are a lot of situations that can cause a team to be in good financial standing and carry over cap dollars.
Smart management is one of them.
Finding and signing free agents at perceived bargain values is another way of being smart.
The other factor can be the age of the team.
If the team has a younger roster of players perhaps still on their rookie contracts, then it tends to have more money.
While the Browns did spend big on Austin Hooper last year, key offensive players are on their initial contracts most notably Baker Mayfield and Nick Chubb.
Because the cap is a moving target that changes annually, this does not mean that the Browns should go out and spend big bucks on J.J. Watt and Richard Sherman.
However, you can see why JJ Watt and Richard Sherman may have additional dollars and cents reasons to be honing in on the Browns in their searches for new teams.
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