Who Should The Browns Restructure First & Why?

With Andrew Berry continuing to aggressively add talent to the Browns roster it is likely we will see a restructure soon to create extra 2021 cap space. It was always a case they would wait to do this as you only make these kinds of moves once you are going to be over the salary cap. In the same way, you don’t take out a mortgage and then decide which property to buy, you find the place you want to buy and then borrow money to buy it. I thought I would take a look at how a restructure works and who the first player would likely be.

What Is A Restructure?

A restructure isn’t a pay cut, it is just a tool for salary cap manipulation. You are converting the players’ base salary into a signing bonus to spread the cost over the future salary cap years of their deal. This will 100% guarantee this player their base salary so they are in favor of it. But it will allow the team to borrow salary cap space from future years, effectively like a payday loan or credit card. There are clauses already inserted in all players’ contracts to allow this. It is only when a team wants to add additional void years onto the deal they need to get the player to agree to a change in their contract first.

The Browns Can Easily Create $34.75m Of 2021 Cap Space

There are several players the Browns could convert their base salaries into signing bonuses to free up cap space in 2021. I have worked on these restructures without adding any additional void years to the deal.

Those are:

OBJ 9.67m
Conklin 6.75m
Landry 5.75m
Tretter 4m
Bitonio 4m
Keenum 2.5m
Hooper 2.25m

The important question is, what is the ongoing impact if you did all of those changes? The money never disappears and it always due at some point. You would increase your guaranteed salary cap commitments in future years, reducing the amount of money we have to spend on either resigning players or adding more free agents in the future. Here is where that $34.75m would be borrowed from:
2022 +$24m
2023 +$10m
2024 +$0.75m

Who Is The Top Restructure Candidate?

Obviously there is no point doing lots of restructures just to borrow the money from 2022 because in a years time the cuts you didn’t make this year you have to make next year to balance the books. The most sensible thing to do is look at deals that have three more years on the contract. Also, a player who you feel confident will be around for a while and not someone you might look to move on from in a years time.

Plus if you restructure a player then you are fully guaranteeing someone’s deal, there is no chance you trade that player during the same season so you need to be 100% sure that someone isn’t going to pop up in the draft that you fall in love with and then go a different direction. Using players whose deal is already fully guaranteed is ideal.

Let us look at the list of candidates for a restructure and see where they sit:
OBJ – Guaranteed deal so makes sense but removes trade options for 2021
Conklin – Void years built-in already, guaranteed to play next two years here
Landry – No guaranteed money left
Tretter – Might move on with Harris next offseason
Bitonio – No guaranteed money left
Keenum – Guaranteed deal but might move on next offseason
Hooper – Might move on and resign Njoku next offseason

That leaves Conklin as your ideal restructure candidate alongside OBJ. If you know you are going to keep OBJ for the whole season no matter what but I’m not sure that is the case as a midseason trade wouldn’t be out of the question if he and Baker don’t mix.

What Does The Conklin Restructure Look Like?

The Browns would convert $9.01m of Conklin’s base salary into a signing bonus spreading it out over the remaining four years of his deal and leaving him with the minimum base for the 2021 season. They would gain $6,757,500 in salary during the 2021 season and this would increase the 2022 salary cap by $2,252,500 and the 2023 salary cap by $4,505,000 due to the void years.

YearAgeBase SalaryProrated BonusCap Number
New Jack Conklin Deal Post Restructure

What About Pay Cuts?

The Browns forced a pay cut out of Vernon and Hubbard the last offseason by using the threat of cutting them from the roster to reduce their salary. This wasn’t a restructure it was a complete re-doing of the deal. A player who is now primed for this is Richardson since they signed a Malik Jackson to a $4.5m deal to back him up, the chances of spending $17,666,668 (9.5% of the salary cap) on the starting and backup 3 technique seems excessive.

The only other player of note I could potentially see is Landry but it comes down to if the front office is willing to put the risk of cutting him on the table because if you don’t have that then the player is never going to agree to a pay cut.

If you would like to know more about the techniques regarding salary cap manipulation, I recently wrote about them all here. 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.

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