Everybody knew the Cleveland Browns were flush with 2022 salary cap space.
But nobody could know exactly how much until the Baker Mayfield finances were decided.
And now that the Mayfield trade is settled, we have the real number.
According to Spotrac, Andrew Berry has $48.7 million to spend in 2022.
More: The #Browns will pay Baker Mayfield $10.5 million this season, which means they trimmed over $8 million in cash and salary-cap space. The #Panthers will pay Mayfield ~$5 million. Mayfield agreed to trim ~$3.5 million off his base salary.
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) July 6, 2022
But does he really?
One of the Cleveland GM’s habits has been to roll cap money over year-to-year.
The most obvious reason for this practice is to provide extra funds to sign free agents.
But Berry’s 2022 surplus has a much more important purpose.
Blowing the Budget
Another regular practice of Andrew Berry and many GMs is to minimize the first-year impact of new deals.
Deshaun Watson and Denzel Ward barely make a dent in the Browns’ 2022 payroll.
But collectively, they account for over $67 million of cap space next year.
Amari Cooper and Myles Garrett take up almost $53 million more.
Salary Cap Figures
2022 – $10M
2023 – $54.9M
2022 – $12.9M
2023 – $29.1M
2022 – $5M
2023 – $12.2M
2022 – $5.2M
2023 – $14.8
2022 – $33.1M
2023 – $111M https://t.co/84FrUJy9Cn
— Pete Smith (@_PeteSmith_) May 6, 2022
Those 4 players represent about one-half of the entire projected 2023 salary cap.
And each of them costs more money against the cap if they are traded or released.
Four other players (Wyatt Teller, Nick Chubb, Joel Bitonio, and John Johnson) carry bigger cap hits than Ward.
Spotrac has the Browns $13 million over the projected 2023 cap already, with only 48 players signed.
What’s The Plan?
Berry’s plan is to roll as many unused cap dollars into the next year as possible to raise the 2023 cap.
Theoretically, that allows him to spend more than other teams and still have extra funds for 2024.
But rolling over cap dollars is not the only way to fit a complete roster of players under the salary cap.
Berry’s 8 big contracts represent the core of veterans who earned their second career deals.
— PFF College (@PFF_College) May 4, 2021
With the exception of Johnson, all are signed through at least the 2024 season.
Very effective drafting helps Berry fill much of the roster with players on inexpensive rookie contracts.
Cleveland’s entire 2020 draft class could play big roles in the Browns’ 2022 season.
And the more Berry gets out of each subsequent draft class, the more he can spend on his star veterans.
How Long Can He Keep This Up?
Most observers note that eventually, the Browns have to pay the piper.
Indeed, there is more dead money to factor in during the 2023 and 2024 seasons than in 2022.
But every year, we see teams with minimal cap space sign important players and extend others.
Andrew Berry is up to the challenge of manipulating the cap with innovative contract language.
Andrew Berry has been managing salary caps since 5th grade 🤯 pic.twitter.com/p1ZcNryhMq
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) April 22, 2022
Most of Berry’s initial draft class will play on their second contracts in 2024.
While few are expected to break the bank, their status as contributors should earn them hefty raises.
But Berry, undoubtedly by design, has a handful of contracts offering big cap-saving “outs” that same year.
This leads us to believe the Browns’ Ivy League brain trust has things figured out well into the future.