The Browns roster is in a great position, loaded with young talent, with many around the league envious of the future ahead, a position the organization isn’t used to being accustomed to.
The additions the Browns make in Free Agency and the Draft in the coming few offseasons matter so more than ever before. With a roster set to include the likes of Baker Mayfield, Myles Garrett & Denzel Ward on veteran deals there isn’t much wiggle room if errors arise.
Andrew Berry & his team know “With great power comes great responsibility”
Where Does The NFL Stand On Position Room Spending?
I took the annual positional spending for the last four seasons from Over The Cap and broke it down as a percentage of the salary cap.
This is the best way because looking at dollar values is misleading when it rises on average at over 6% a year. Here are the figures for the league average and the fourth highest/lowest.
The reason I went with fourth is that you get rare outliers but that is usually caused by an unplanned injury, etc, or bad roster management by a particular front office.
I have included where the 2020 Browns stand, this is a one year sample and thus less stable than a four-year viewpoint but it gives you a flavor of areas they would likely need to spend less in the future.
Why Do These Percentages Mean For The Browns Moving Forward?
This isn’t an article about moving on from player x or y that is currently on the roster. It is about who is here in 2023, 2024, 2025, and 2026. Those are the first four years when you will likely have Garrett, Mayfield & Ward on substantial deals. That will naturally put pressure on the rest of the roster so let us look at how much. This is about how many veteran spots are available around these guys.
Browns Offense Post Baker Pay Day
Let’s say Baker signs a deal comparable to Wentz it would be 17.0% of the NFL salary cap when signed, if we factor in the cap increasing 6.1% each year and it being signed two years in advance it works out at 13.8% across 2023-2026. That is 27% of your total spend on offense before you look at the other 24 offensive roster spots.
If we are really optimistic and we say half the picks are on offense and defense and they all hit, that would be 2 x 1st/2nd/3rd/4th/5th, those 10 players cost 6.1% of the salary cap across four years (if we draft late). If we add 8 more players as Day 3/UDFA/vet min deals, this totals 3.2%.
Alongside Baker, this would allow for six other veteran deals (say RB, WR, WR, TE, OL, OL) these would have to come in at a max of 27.5% of the cap if we hit on every draft pick as laid out above. For comparison, a Chubb deal $12.5M APY, Beckham at $15M, Landry $15m, Hooper $10.5m, Conklin $14m & Bitonio $10m would be 35.5%.
As we know teams don’t hit on 100% of picks you are likely looking at only three big price veterans ($10-15 million) on offense and two middling ($3-5 million) contracts alongside Baker once he is on his veteran deal.
The Edge Room With Myles Garrett
If we look at Myles deal, it was 12.6% of the NFL salary cap when it was signed, if we factor in the cap increasing 6.1% each year and it being signed two years in advance it works out at 10.2% across four years meaning there is only 4.5% of the salary cap left for rest of the Edge room if it was one of the most expensive in the league.
If we work that out to be a Day 2 pick (0.6%) and two Day 3 picks/UDFAs (0.8% combined), it leaves very little to pay the remaining veteran edge in the room despite being one of the most expensive in the league (3.1%). To put a number on that, it would be $6.1 million per year during the 2020 season.
Adding Ward Alongside Garrett
If you max out the edge room at 14.7% of the NFL salary cap this leaves 31.1% to spread across the other 20 spots on defense. It is realistic that Ward could get an extension at 7% once we factor in it being an early deal.
If we then go with the same logic above of the 10 draft picks and 8 late Day 3/UDFA/vet min deals (3 of these in the edge room already) that is 14.8% left for four remaining veterans (say a DT, LB, CB, S). That would be $28.5m so you could have Richardson $12.3m APY, Goodson $2.4m, Mitchell $3.3m leaving $10 million to add a free agent safety & replace the picks that bust with veteran players on cheaper deals. After Myles & Denzel you are likely looking at two high-priced veterans ($10-12.5 million) and three mid-priced guys ($3-5 million).
Why Does That Matter Now, You Said 2023?
If we look at the draft, those 20 draft picks that we need to hit on to become starters and rotational pieces in this team, some have already been added to the roster. The more draft picks that hit, the fewer veterans you need on $2-5 million a year, the more it frees up for bigger veteran deals.
Veterans extended or signed in free agency this year could easily have backloaded deals like Hooper did which keeps them around during the 2023-2026 window.
Here are the approximate spaces for offensive veterans on the roster, during this window. You can stack them in different ways and possibly go with two $8 million guys rather than a higher and lower veteran but it gives you a flavor of what we will see. I have used the dollar examples on the left to give you an idea of that level of the player based on the 2020 salary, this would naturally increase as the cap rises.
You likely need to keep a spot clear in 2025 & 2026 for paying Wills, if Teller gets paid this offseason then that needs to be added. Paying Nick Chubb a $25 million/2 year extension fills one of those 2023 high-priced veteran gaps for instance. It is all down to opportunity cost, you can have this many veteran players, stack them however you would like.
We have a blank canvass to work with at the moment of defence and who we would add. An extension for Harrison and any free agents we chase this offseason has a strong chance of landing on this list though.
This isn’t about saying we need to get rid of any players now, we can spend slightly more freely the next two seasons of short term free-agent deals due to use still having Sashi Brown’s salary cap rollover sitting in the bank plus Baker not getting paid just yet. But we need to be aware that any future deal has very real consequences for who else can stay on the roster.
This is very much a good team problem to have, we have three stars at their different positions who are set to get paid, these are the consequences that it comes with.
I hope you enjoyed the piece, if you have any questions feel free to ask me on Twitter at @JackDuffin, my DM’s are always open.