The Browns, Brady Quinn and Money

In today’s NFL one of the most important aspects of managing a franchise is the salary cap.  It is the biggest reason that I was absolutely CLAMORING for the Browns to trade down prior to the NFL draft.  You can argue whether or not Alex Mack was the right draft pick and whether or not the Browns got enough in return for dropping as far as they did.  You can’t argue with the business sense it makes to draft that much lower.  In the end, the Browns saved about $20 million in guaranteed dollars of salary cap space by trading down and taking Alex Mack vs. Mark Sanchez’ gaudy rookie deal.  This brings me to the point.  It has been mentioned briefly that the Browns might have switched from Brady Quinn to Derek Anderson due to the money.  I don’t expect to give anybody the absolute answer today, but the money is worth exploring.

First, let’s look at Derek Anderson and his salary.  When Derek Anderson signed with the Browns the deal was for 3 years and $24 million.  That doesn’t really tell the story though.  Derek Anderson got a signing bonus of $7 million.  His roster bonus leading up to the 2009 season was $5 million.  If he sticks around for the 2010 season, he has another roster bonus of $2 million coming his way.  The point is that this season since Derek Anderson has already been paid his roster bonus, he should be considered a sunk cost.  No matter what happens, that man has been paid and paid handsomely.  According to BrownsGab by way of ESPN Derek Anderson’s cap number for 2009 is just over $8 million and for 2010 is just under $12 million.

Compare that with what ProFootballTalk has been on record reporting for Brady Quinn and it sheds some light on the business realities that the Browns might be looking at when choosing who is under center.  In August, Mike Florio reported that Brady Quinn would have to take 70% of the Browns’ offensive snaps to trigger a $5 million escalator for 2010. In addition to that, there is a lower tier escalator that puts $1.32 million in Quinn’s pocket if he takes 45% of the snaps.  So in all, if Quinn takes 70% of the snaps, it will cost the Browns $6.32 million.

While Lerner and company can afford to pay that money, in the salary cap world of the NFL it isn’t that simple.  That money could cost the team somewhere else.  Peyton Manning is one of the best QBs of this generation and over the years he has had to restructure his deal to make sure that his compensation doesn’t negatively impact his team’s ability to keep his weapons around him.  When Manning signed that deal in 2004 it was originally scheduled to pay him about $14 million annually.  So it probably shouldn’t surprise us to find out that Mangini and the Browns aren’t excited about the business prospects that Phil Savage potentially left them with both Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson combined to potentially make probably a bit more than Peyton Manning’s $14 million in 2010 when you combine their salaries.

If DA’s cap number is $12 million for 2010 and BQ’s is somewhere in the neighborhood of $7 million, that would mean the Browns were paying $20 million for quarterbacks who might or might not be the answer.  If they stick it out with Derek Anderson this season because he is a sunk cost, and then try to unload him at the end of the year, they do two things.  The Browns eliminate DA’s $12 million cap number, and they also pay Quinn a base salary of about $700,000 and then let him try to earn his money in bonuses next year.  So, by playing Derek Anderson this season instead of Brady Quinn they are saving $6.32 million for next year when they can allow Brady Quinn to play in a “prove it” type of year.  Of course that really stinks for us as the impatient fanbase.

That is the bad thing about being a fan and having to look at the business realities rather than just the on-field realities.  I think most of us would like to see what the Browns have in Quinn right now.  I think most of us think we already know the ceiling for Derek Anderson.  But from a business perspective, Derek Anderson is a sunk cost and at this point we have to believe that Mangini and company have seen what they feel is enough of Quinn to know that they can’t possibly afford to have those bonus dollars locked up in Quinn in addition to what they have locked up in Derek Anderson.  Maybe they are wrong about Quinn, but the business risk of that $6.32 million must seem too high for them to find out.

Of course, Mangini also can’t come out and say, “I pulled Brady Quinn because I wanted to have him available to play next year for almost nothing.”  We will have to wait and see if it plays out that way next year to know if Quinn’s benching this year was all about the money or not.  Then again, if he is traded today by the deadline…

  • DP Diesel

    Solid piece, Craig. I had thought DA’s contract was front-loaded, so I had no idea his 2010 cap hit was that high.

    The flip side to all of that, however, is that if there are no takers (honestly, who would want the worst-rated QB in the league AND a $12MM cap hit??), the Browns are stuck. The Quinn part of the equation still holds, but the Browns either eat a roster spot with DA, or have to take a huge cap hit by cutting him.

  • DP Diesel

    ***…either eat a roster spot AND $12MM with DA, or…***

  • DocZeus

    So if that’s true. Why did they bother to start the season with Quinn in the first place? Why not just hand it to Anderson and be done with it?

  • TBrown

    The more I watch the Browns the more I think this piece is right on; Savage left the team with a much worse cap position than I realized. I too had no idea DA would count as a $12m hit next year . . . what a terrible deal.

  • TBrown

    @3 Doc

    I think they had to give Quinn a shot; if he showed them something off the bat, they probably would have been willing to take the cap hit and groom him as their franchise QB. He didn’t (and I say that as a Quinn fan) and continuing to play him became a serious financial risk.

  • Isis

    You don’t play QB games over money, end of story. If that is or were the case, it will unquestionably come back to haunt this regime. Whatever is going on here, it’s a dirty agenda.

  • matt

    this is a great piece. IF THIS IS THE REASON, in hindsight, this approach worked for Mangini, as he was able to watch Quinn early to see if he had anything special. He saw enough of Quinn (in his eyes) to know he did not want him on the roster next year, and likely will replace Anderson as well. Now, if he can just replace Daboll, too…….

  • matt

    um yeah, what TBrown #6 said….

  • Isis

    TBrown-what do you mean “if he showed him something off the bat”? You don’t draft a QB in round one and give him 2 1/2 games to show something. All rookie/first time QB’s struggle, it’s part of the process. There is no way you or anyone else can make a reasonable judgement on BQ’s future based on what miniscule PT he’s been given, end of story.

  • humboldt

    good piece Craig. In fairness to Savage, DA did have a pro bowl on his resume and the system dictated the pay raise as much as anything. most people thought Anderson was on the brink of being a solid to above-average NFL QB after ’08, and he still may prove to be. Right now though, “sunk cost” is probably the best description for his services

  • matt

    Isis, Mangini did not draft Quinn in any round, and he has started more than 2 1/2 games. Also, this is his third year.

  • TBrown

    @9 Isis

    I agree that they should’ve given Quinn a better shot; believe me, I watched the guy all through his years with the Irish and I practically did a backflip when we drafted him. I had never purchased a Browns jersey in my life, yet I went out and bought his before he even signed his rookie contract, so I’m there with you that they mishandled him terribly.

    But the mishandling started right after they drafted him and by the time Mangini got there, the damage was done. As the coach, Mangini wanted something in particular out of his QB (we’re still not sure what) and he didn’t see it in Quinn. It sucks, but if this was a call to make the Browns a more functional team under the salary cap, I have to at least consider its merits.

  • bobby

    I am a DA fan, and I think Savage was nuts to give him a 3 year, 24 mil deal.

    Other then that, its pointless to say BQ is a rookie for Mangini, because Mangini comes in looking at it as he has a 3rd year pro, an ex- pro bowler, and a ton of freaking money that has to go to them. I agree that Mangini wanted to see if Quinn could ‘wow’ coming out of pre-season and into the season. He did not. I kind of think BQ will go back in around the last 3-4 games to give him one last shot. Either way, they need to get rid of these guys within the next 2 years (probably the sooner the better).

  • sg

    to #10 – no we could have let him go as a restricted FA after his “pro bowl” year and would’ve gotten a 1st and 3rd pick as compensation. If you really look at his numbers from his “pro bowl” year you will see he really only played well in about 6-7 games, the rest were like now. Do you remember the two endzone INTs he threw against Cincy to keep us OUT of the playoffs. he was only a probowler because of injuries and the 2nd pick declined to go to Hawaii.

  • Jack

    They are not wrong about Quinn. We would trade him. But no one is interested.

  • Tylor

    @9: Brady Quinn looked lost and scared to be playing QB in the NFL unlike many other recent young QB’s who looked poised and confident… reference Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Mark Sanchez (until last week), Chad Henne, hell even Stafford hasn’t looked bad.

  • BillCowherforHC

    Wasn’t the cap surprisingly big this year? Isn’t there a good chance that they’ll be a bigger cap or maybe even no cap next year?

  • Chris

    But the mishandling started right after they drafted him…

    If you’re referring to his agent holding him out, causing him to miss a chance at the starting job, you would be correct.

  • TBrown

    @18 Chris

    I think that was certainly part of it. I also think the organization should have gotten behind him sooner once that whole mess was over and gotten him onto the field.

  • Derek

    Both of them have looked lost or at least have looked completely terrible, because the line (particularly St. Clair) is matadoring opposing outside rushers to the QB. Behind a good line, both of these QBs would be at least average. I think PManning is probably the only QB in the league who could direct an above average offense with a bad line.

  • Chris

    @ #19 – If you support that angle, then the masses would have yelled ( once the experiment ended poorly ) that RAC / Savage didn’t give him enough time to learn the system, a la Carson Palmer, and have ruined yet another quarterback.

    I know this is repetitive, but there has to be something that these guys think Quinn just doesn’t have. I’m sure the money plays a role, but there have to be qualities lacking that the coaching staff has noticed in practice, and more specifically, during games that landed Quinn where he is now. I’m not going to pretend to be an NFL coach, but I really hope it isn’t all about money.

  • Omega King

    Well Isis, if they had to commit $20mm to 2 QBs who may never pan out, that decision would haunt this regime for a long time, too. So, honestly, how can they win, in your ever-so-wise opinion?

  • garwass

    23 million dollars

  • Ike

    Well laid-out article. Despite the fractured operations of this moribund franchise, the main problem with the Browns is that the players just aren’t very good.

    The more money we save, the better the roster eventually gets.

  • DP Diesel

    @#22 – they can’t. That’s his entire premise.


    Maybe, Mangini saw how incredibly obvious it was that Quinn is not an NFL QB. Barring injury, Quinn is never playing for the Browns again.

    Deal with it.

  • ben

    @26: Are you DA? C’mon. You can admit it now. No need to be jealous.

  • bobby

    @17- next year does look like an uncapped year, but as soon as a new CBA is set up, the cap will be right back. So its not really worth giving out millions and getting screwed over anyways.

  • George

    You ought to consider that Quinn’s escalators could well be classified NLTBE. There’s a possibility that the $5MM for the 70% mark wouldn’t count against the cap.

  • paulbip

    They started Quinn because they were trying to win games. When that didn’t work they went to DA to save money. It’s called cutting losses. Next year it will be Quinn and Ratcliff with DA cut with nothing in return.

  • fordlaw

    There may be something else at play here too. Every game that Quinn started the “real” fans (those who bet on the Browns) lost money. Every game that Anderson has started so far the real fans have won money. I would think this is a powerful inducement to continue to start Anderson.

  • wonkguy

    Nice attempt at analysis but it is just very dangerous to try to talk in such detail about contracts that you haven’t seen, read or talked to anyone who has. You’re really putting your credibility on the line…

    Finally, the issue isn’t how much Brady’s cap number is, the issue is what would the Browns get for it. Between the two, DA is the better QB and potentially has the bigger upside. That’s it, plain and simple.

  • Matt Duke

    Great article…I think…I’m blind from the small font and single spacing. Help a brother out and put some 1.5 spacing between the lines or something!

  • Keith Vlasak

    I don’t think that money and contracts were a factor. Quinn is smarter than Anderson. McManamon suggested Mangini was kind of impressed with Anderson’s arm strength and may have even thought he would win the job … but Quinn wasn’t any less impressive on tapes of last year and his IQ put him ahead — like his ability to run the no huddle, calling plays at the line, which one might notice the Browns haven’t done since Quinn was benched.

    Grossi has said that Mangini had to go to Anderson because the whole team was demanding it, that it may not have been fair to Quinn, but that there wasn’t any choice. I think that rings true. I think it’s even pretty simple and straight forward for the players, too. The coaches picked Quinn, so the players shrug and go to work … but, and I’m not trying to portray the players as ignorant here, but imagine they pay far more attention to someone’s arm strength than his IQ, when the results on the field are so bad and the players see Anderson’s arm strength, they don’t understand why the better player isn’t playing when the one who is playing is doing nothing.

    That’s why Anderson is starting. And, yes, I’m one of those fans who believes I already know Anderson’s ceiling and can’t wait for him to be gone from the Browns. I certainly have to admit, though, that Quinn was terrible this year and did nothing to even make a switch difficult. What bothers me about Quinn, though — and it isn’t in his favor — is that he looked so much worse than he did last year. What that makes me think is that he’s too coachable, too malleable, too wishy-washy, too eager to please to be a leader.

  • mjoe

    This would make a lot more sense if there was a salary cap for 2010. Maybe it’s smart planning in a “just in case” kind of way, but with 0 progress and no discussions there’s no way there is a new bargaining agreement by next season.

  • mudhenfla

    BQ isn’t playing because he is not an NFL QB. Period.

  • Big D

    Interesting article. Raises awareness that there are other factors to be considered. Performance being equally awful between them – makes sense to pocket the future cap money to make us more competitive in the future.

    While I’m no Mangini apologist I do see some intelligence in all this. Previous regime saw a window after 2007 to compete and had short term goals (both for the team and to save their jobs). That didn’t pan out. Our uninterested “star” players wouldn’t provide value relative to their current cap impact so the money is better spent elsewhere down the road. Meanwhile Mangini seems to be weeding out players interested in things other than football. To use the analogy of building a house – plan seems to be setting a solid foundation of pure football players, constructing the frame on the draft, and then when the time comes adding the roof with some stud free agents with all the cap room saved. I like it.

    Of course you have to trust that the coach can evaluate talent and that our draft picks will produce. I loved the idea of trading down last year but was unimpressed with the results. Time will tell I guess…

  • ottox

    The “New” Browns’ coaches, head and assistant, have been horrible teachers. Players, including Quinn and Anderson, have regressed or stalled since coming to the team. This hurts Quinn more than Anderson because what people like in Anderson is what he was born with. The best players on the team came ready-made: Joe Thomas, Josh Cribbs, Phil Dawson, Dave Zastudsil (sp?). They just have to ignore the coaches while nodding “yes” to them.

  • Ryan

    Looking into my own Browns crystal ball….

    Derek Anderson opens 2010 as the starter but is replaced at the bye week with rookie Colt McCoy, who makes the most of his opportunity and leads the Browns in a surprising upset over……

    Just looking into my crystal ball….