Cleveland Browns GM Andrew Berry has done an admirable job attracting top notch on-the-field talent while keeping a watchful eye on the bottom line as it pertains to the salary cap.
The most recent reporting indicates that the Browns have the 6th most cap space in the NFL.
… And the teams with the most space, as of this morning.
1) Jags $38.83M
2) Jets $24.58M
3) Broncos $23.21M
4) Bengals $22.15M
5) Lions $21.04M
6) Browns $20.57M
7) Chargers $19.40M
8) 49ers $17.86M
9) Patriots $14.97M
10) Panthers $14.64M
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) May 19, 2021
The Browns favorable financial situation is due to several reasons.
1. The Browns Had A Lot Of Carryover Cap Money
The Browns carried over the most unused cap dollars from the 2020 season.
A look at the salary cap carryover for 2021: pic.twitter.com/Q5JELBem2u
— NFLPA (@NFLPA) February 19, 2021
This essentially added $30 million to the NFL 2021 salary cap number of $182.5 million giving the Browns $212 million.
2. Young Rosters Generally Earn Less Money
Players on rookie contracts earn less money so the more youth oriented the team is, the more likely they have more salary cap to work with.
The Jaguars and Jets are perfect examples of this because they are among the youngest teams in the NFL.
The Browns are not far behind, tied for the eighth-youngest roster with an average age just below 25 years.
According to rosters on all 32 team websites, the #Colts currently are tied for the eighth-youngest roster in the NFL, with an average age of 24.98.
— Andrew Walker (@AWalkerColts) May 15, 2021
3. Players Are Taking Less Money To Play In Cleveland
Lifelong Cleveland Browns are not familiar with this phenomenon because it is new in the Berry/Stefanski era.
High caliber players want to come and play for the Browns and are willing to take short term deals with less salary than perhaps they could get elsewhere to do so.
There were several players in this situation in the 2021 offseason; one of those was free agent safety John Johnson III.
Safety John Johnson III turned down ‘significantly more money’ from another team to sign with the #Browns
The Browns’ signing got the stamp of approval from Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who tweeted, “Browns just got a good 1.’'https://t.co/Gi9rsDZpA0
— bri4change (@bri4change2021) March 16, 2021
No one knows just how much money JJ3 turned down, but we do know that the Lions, Eagles and Jaguars were actively pursuing him in free agency.
Browns Have Large And Looming Financial Decisions
It is not all unicorns and rainbows for the Cleveland Browns.
Despite this favorable financial news, there are young players with expiring contracts.
The 🥄 is back! The @Browns Nick Chubb to the house! Let’s watch the big guys work. Wyatt Teller is such a difference maker. Also this shows the importance of the RB track and making one defender miss. pic.twitter.com/KewwC7JfdX
— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) January 4, 2021
2021 is in the final year of his contract.
He is a second-round draft pick so there is no luxury of a fifth-year option to exercise.
It is unfortunately true that most running backs lose their market value quickly; however, Ezekiel Elliott, Derrick Henry, and Dalvin Cook defy the norm and are among the most highly paid running backs in the NFL.
Chubb is valuable to the team, organization, and city so it will be intriguing to see how the Browns handle this.
Will they attempt to negotiate before the 2021 season kicks off?
Would they consider placing the franchise tag on him in 2022?
Equally troubling is that guard Wyatt Teller is a free agent in 2022.
The running game is not executed the same without Teller (and Chubb) on the field.
Teller’s current contract is the epitome of bargain basement; it is a 4 year $2.7 million deal.
Baker Mayfield and Denzel Ward
— MoreForYouCleveland (@MoreForYou_CLE) April 23, 2021
The Browns recently exercised their fifth-year options so both are with the team through the 2022 season.
Will the Browns negotiate early and try to get a better deal on either player?
If the Browns want a model of what not to do with Baker Mayfield, they should study how the Dallas Cowboys mismanaged Dak Prescott.
Now Prescott is among the most highly paid quarterbacks, and he hasn’t even won a conference championship.
Andrew Berry is a man of few words and details so his actions as he negotiates with these players will be very telling.