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…