NFL Free Agency: Where’s all the Browns money?

Tom Heckert

I know a lot of people are frustrated with the Browns today as free agents get signed in places like Washington, Buffalo, Tampa Bay and elsewhere. The Browns are estimated to have $17.4 million plus the $1.6 million in awarded money from the Redskins and Cowboys penalties. It is one thing to hear $19 million and it is quite another to try and understand how the Browns are as bad as they have been and yet aren’t tops in the NFL in terms of salary cap space. So I went and did the best I could to figure out the 2012 cap figures for Browns players just to get a feel for how this team is built financially.

Just a couple of disclaimers. Piecing together salary cap info that is 100% accurate is nearly impossible unless you work in the league offices. I took some liberties pro-rating signing bonuses and estimating other bonuses in certain cases. Still, even if my margin of error is 5% it should still be educational to see just where all the money is. Also, I filled up the end of the roster with any old guys who are making around league minimums in order to get the roster size up to 55 which it would be for the regular season.

In the end, with my estimating I got the Browns salary cap in 2012 to be just north of $105 million which gives them just over $15 million in salary cap room. That means in all my estimating I ended up being a couple million high over the course of the roster.

NAMEPOS.AGEExperience. 2012 Cap Number
Thomas, JoeOL275                 12,500,000
Rubin, AhtybaDL254                   9,375,000
Haden, JoeDB222                   8,165,505
Steinbach, EricOL319                   7,428,571
Jackson, D’QwellLB286                   6,200,000
Brown, SheldonDB3210                   5,366,667
Gocong, ChrisLB286                   5,012,500
Fujita, ScottLB3210                   4,316,000
Dawson, PhilK3713                   3,800,000
Wallace, SenecaQB319                   3,000,000
Watson, BenjaminTE318                   2,880,000
Moore, EvanTE273                   2,868,750
Mack, AlexOL263                   2,403,000
Mitchell, JaymeDL276                   2,400,000
Jackson, BrandonRB265                   2,250,000
Taylor, PhillipDL230                   2,100,000
Young, UsamaDB265                   2,000,000
Greco, JohnOL264                   1,500,000
Cribbs, JoshuaWR287                   1,438,000
Sheard, JabaalDL220                   1,272,500
Maiava, KalukaLB243                   1,190,000
Ward, T. J.DB252                   1,008,750
Massaquoi, MohamedWR253                       815,000
Hardesty, MontarioRB252                       740,000
Ventrone, RayDB296                       734,000
McCoy, ColtQB252                       727,750
Lauvao, ShawnOL242                       714,250
Little, GregWR220                       706,250
Hodges, ReggieP305                       650,000
Benard, MarcusDL263                       615,000
Cameron, JordanTE230                       576,750
Marecic, OwenFB230                       567,500
Gronkowski, DanTE273                       540,000
Ogbonnaya, ChrisRB252                       540,000
Daniels, StanleyOL272                       540,000
Williams, EddieFB242                       540,000
Mitchell, CarltonWR232                       518,363
Sanford, BrianDL242                       500,000
Hagg, EricDB220                       476,250
Stephens, EmmanuelDL251                       450,000
Paxson, ScottDL292                       415,000
English, AustonDL251                       415,000
Lewis, ThaddeusQB241                       415,000
Windsor, RodWR261                       415,000
Wolfert, JeffK261                       415,000
Pinkston, JasonOL240                       415,000
Skrine, BusterDB220                       415,000
Alford, DominicOL240                       415,000
Dockery, JamesDB230                       415,000
Jacobs, BenjaminLB230                       415,000
Robertson, CraigLB240                       415,000
Shaw, JarrodOL240                       415,000
Sims, DavidDB250                       415,000
Smith, ArmondRB250                       415,000
Smith, BrianLB230                       415,000
Spears, QuintonLB230
Spencer, OwenWR240
Tripp, KianteDT240
Yount, ChristianLS230


Some interesting notes. Of the major players under contract, twelve of them are set to come off the books for 2013 to the tune of about $26 million. So, if the Browns go into next season near or below the salary cap they will have $26 million coming off the books already. That includes Sheldon Brown, Scott Fujita, Phil Dawson, Ben Watson, Jayme Mitchell, Josh Cribbs, Brandon Jackson, Kaluka Maiava, Mohamed Massaquoi, Ray Ventrone, Reggie Hodges, and Dan Gronkowski.

Out of that list of players, it would be nice if the Browns had incentive to keep Josh Cribbs, Brandon Jackson, Kaluka Maiava and maybe (maybe) Mohamed Massaquoi.

What does this mean for building a team? Well, the Browns have the 4th pick and the 22nd pick this year. A.J. Green was the 4th pick a year ago and his cap number for 2012 is probably around $4.5 million. Colts offensive lineman Anthony Costanzo was the 22nd pick a year ago and his 2011 cap number was about $2 million. Right there you can chop $7 million off the cap for two guys who should become important starters for the team.

In addition the Browns have the 4th pick in the second round and will have to have roughly one million available per year for that pick. Add in the rest of the rounds and the Browns need to have somewhere north of $10 million available in cap space just to sign their draft picks.

Yes there is other flexibility if the Browns decide to restructure someone or cut a veteran, but not tons and tons. The next time you think the Browns should sign career #2 receiver Pierre Garcon for $42 million over five years, keep this in mind. The Browns also want enough room to consider bringing back Peyton Hillis, re-signing Dimitri Patterson and hopefully finding a right tackle and/or defensive end.

Sorry to say folks, but this rebuild is still over a year away as the Browns continue to load up in the draft and wait out contracts to turn the roster over. As far as free agency goes, it doesn’t really seem like the Browns are sold on Flynn, so don’t expect them to sign any free agents for much more than the Brandon Jackson $2.5 million level at most.

  • Psaid2

    The reason why H&H said we wouldn’t make a big splash in free agency is that no one wants to come here unless the are overpaid (like Rucker). The Browns will spend the money, just not going to get anyone that is good. 3 million for some minor back up fromPhilly?