How A Reduced Salary Cap in 2021 Impacts the Browns?

We are starting to hear more about how the NFL will deal with the impact the pandemic on the revenues the league makes. Tom Pelissero tweeted: “The proposal being discussed by the NFL and NFLPA would spread the impact of any revenue shortfall in 2020 over four years, with a 2021 salary cap of at least $175 million, sources tell me and @MikeGarafolo.” Mike Garafolo then added: “Next year’s salary cap would be no lower than $175m. If revenues are better than expected, it could be higher. If worse, it would have to be accounted for in future years through 2024. But a cap minimum to assure a reasonable floor in 2021 was important to the players.” So let’s look at what this all means for the Browns!

Browns 2020 Salary Cap Position

First, we need to see what the Browns are spending in 2020 and how much salary cap space they will roll over into next season. There will need to be some projections here as we still don’t know Myles Garrett’s new cap numbers, what the 53 man roster will be, and any extra moves they make this season.

Current 53 Man Roster – $179.7 million
Current Dead Cap – $12.4 million

Current Cap Position – $192.1 million

If we set aside an additional $5 million for the salary cap impact of the Myles Garrett’s new deal in 2020 as we know he is due at least an extra $4.2 million of his new $21 million signing bonus.

There will be some more moves, likely smaller ones, and then you will have to pay players on practice squads, players that go to IR as well as replacing them on the roster. Plus any more players that are cut during roster cut down will have their dead cap figures against the team. I would guess this would be around $5 million extra, this could vary widely depending on what the team does in 2020.

Current Cap Position – $192.1 million
Myles Garrett Deal – $5 million
Miscellaneous Moves – $5 million
Projected Browns 2020 Salary Spend – $202.1 million
2020 NFL Salary Cap – $198.2 million
Browns Cap Rollover – $28.1 million

Browns 2021 Salary Cap Position

If the Browns were successful in rolling over $28.1 million of salary cap space, this would put them in a strong position and give them a salary cap of up to $203.1 million in 2021 ($175m+$28.1m). They would likely limit themselves to around $193.1 million through so they can keep $10 million in space to help with the 2022 salary cap being lower due to them backloading deals. The last thing they would want to do is have one year at $203.1 million and then cut to say $185 million in 2022.

Let’s look a the notable salary cap hits the Browns have for 2021 and any dead cap if they were to move them in 2021 (all salary cap info from Over The Cap):

QB – Mayfield $10.6m ($10.4m dead in cut, $5.5m in trade)
QB – Keenum $7.3m ($5.2m dead in cut, $2.7m in trade)

RB – Chubb $2.3m ($0.9m dead in cut/trade)
FB – Janovich $1.5m (no dead cap)

WR – Beckham $15.75m (no dead cap)
WR – Landry $14.8m ($3m dead in cut/trade)
WR – Ratley $1m (no dead cap)
WR – Peoples-Jones $0.8m ($0.1m dead in cut/trade)

TE – Hooper $8.25m ($15m dead in cut/trade)
TE – Njoku $6m (no dead cap)
TE – Bryant $1m ($0.6m dead in cut/trade)

T – Conklin $13m ($22m dead in cut, $12m in trade)
T – Hubbard $5.1m ($1.3m dead in cut/trade)
T – Wills $4.5m ($16.1m dead in cut, $8.9m in trade)

G – Bitonio $10m (no dead cap)
G – Teller $0.9m (no dead cap)
G – Forbes $0.9m ($0.1m dead in cut/trade)

C – Tretter $11.1m ($3.25m dead in cut/trade)
C – Harris $0.9m ($0.2m dead in cut/trade)

ED – Garrett (Contract unknown)
ED – Clayborn $3.5m ($0.5m dead in cut/trade)
ED – Thomas $1.3m ($0.3m dead in cut/trade)

DT – Richardson $16.7m ($1.7m dead in cut/trade)
DT – Elliott $1m ($0.7m dead in cut/trade)

LB – TakiTaki $1.1m ($0.5m dead in cut/trade)
LB – Phillips $1m ($0.6m dead in cut/trade)
LB – Wilson $0.9m ($0.2m dead in cut/trade)

CB – Ward $9.4m ($9.3m dead in cut, $4.8 in trade)
CB – Williams $1.8m ($1.4m dead in cut/trade)
CB – Green $0.8m (no dead cap)

S – Delpit $1.7m ($3.2m dead in cut, $2.2m in trade)
S – Redwine $1m ($0.4m dead in cut/trade)

LS – Hughlett $1.1m (no dead cap)
K – Seibert $0.9m ($0.1m dead in cut/trade)
P – Gillan $0.9m (no dead cap)

The first thing to note is that there are only 35 players meaning the Browns will need to be making additions next offseason, this is impacted by having so many projected starters playing on one-year deals. So let’s make this into a possible 53 man roster.

34 Man Roster – $158.8 million
Garret Projected Deal – $25 million
10 Draft Picks – $10 million
8 Players On League Minimum – $5 million
Total – $198.8 million

This would put the Browns $5.7 million over the planned target of staying below $193.1 million. So let us look at some cuts/trades that are very likely during the 2021 offseason. Remember for every player we let go we have to add a minimum cost player at $625,000 back to the roster to keep a 53 man roster.

There is a real chance either Landry or Beckham is moved on, Landry would save just over $11 million and Beckham just over $15 million.

Njoku is certainly a possibility as it would clear up over $5.3 million of cap space.

Hubbard appears a lock with a saving of over $3m.

It looks like Richardson is playing for the 31 other teams in the NFL this season as the saving of around $14.3 million makes him a near-lock to be cut.

Those four moves can free up around $35 million of cap space for the Browns. This would mean it would get them below the salary cap target of $193.1 million as well as leaving around $30 million in space to add some free agency talent or re-sign players. The market for middle-tier talent will be very abundant and cheap this year as this is where most players are due to be cut to make teams cap compliant. Plus the Browns will need to start thinking about the extensions for lots of players so that could be where the money goes rather than free agency.

The Browns will have lots of starters to replace because as things stand this would be the starting lineup plus the 2021 draft picks (* show possible cut/trade candidates):

QB – Mayfield
RB – Chubb
WR – Beckham*
WR – Landry*
TE – Hooper
TE – Njoku*
LT – Wills
LG – Bitonio
C – Tretter
RG – Teller
RT – Conklin

ED – Garrett
DT – Richardson*
DT – ???
ED – ???
LB – Phillips/TakiTaki/Wilson
CB – Ward
CB – Williams
CB – ???
S – Delpit
S – Redwine
S – ???

Conclusion

Overall the Browns are in a very strong position due to having a smaller roster on lots of rookie deals. They will want to be as careful with how they use their remaining cap rollover over the next three seasons to limit the impact of the pandemic on the roster. It will be more about keeping their own players and extending the rookies rather than any flashy signings in free agency.

Having acquired 10 draft picks for the 2021 NFL Draft they will be able to grab lots of cheap players to fill out the bottom of the roster. They should be in a good position to offer lots of one to two-year deals to players next offseason who are stuck in free agency once their current team clear space.

Next offseason will be full of tough decisions as teams look to reduce the cost of several players, so enjoy this year as much as possible as moves could be coming down the road for some fan favourites in Chubb, Landry and Beckham. If you are planning a jersey purchase I would also avoid Richardson, Hubbard, Njoku and possibly even Bitonio/Tretter depending on how bad things get with the pandemic.

Any questions, feel free to hit me up on Twitter @JackDuffin. The DMs are open for any salary cap/roster construction questions you have.

One thought on “How A Reduced Salary Cap in 2021 Impacts the Browns?

  1. I know this takes a lot of time for data research, Jack, but it always pays off in your detailed articles.
    Based on ur data, many other teams will be in a worse cap sit. CLE will be OK.
    Think of the majority of fans who wanted huge $ spent on Trent W, Jamal A, Clowney, others … most fans always wrong. It would have been bad.
    Sheldon Richardson turns 31 in Nov of 2021–as you said “near-lock to be cut”.
    I believe in Njoku. IMO GM Berry and the HC do also–the gave him his 5th yr option. Only age 25 next year. Any decent production, Njoku stays in Stefanski’s 12 and 22 personnel system.
    I’m on record as saying the failure to save CAP by cutting Hubbard and Vernon ($15.5 mill could have been saved on Vernon alone) will be the first “Berry blunders”. Vernon’s restructure came well after the Covid-19 became a severe pandemic in July. Berry took a great risk (Vernon’s chronic injuries) and now with reduced salary CAP for 2021, it looks like a blunder indeed–IMO.

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