Chris Pokorny and our friends over at Dawgs By Nature have done some math and determined that the Browns should have somewhere north of $45 million available in cap space for the upcoming off-season. We all knew it would be a great deal of money, so it’s not a surprise, but even more than last year, I expect the Browns to be aggressive in trying to prop up their new coaching staff. That doesn’t mean that I think Banner and company will lose their heads, but I do expect them to spend in free agency, likely starting at home with T.J. Ward. Alex Mack? I’m not so sure yet.
So, how did Pokorny arrive at $45.46 million? The Browns have committed $98.19 million to existing players. The salary cap is projected to be $126.3 million, giving the Browns just over $28 million. Then add in 2013 carry-over of $24.54 million and you arrive at $52.65 million. Alas, the Browns do have a bit of dead money for guys like Owen Marecic and over $6.5 million in Trent Richardson bonus cash. That reduces the $52.65 million down to $45.46 million.1
It certainly puts the Browns in a position to make strides in the AFC North where the Steelers are currently projected to be about $10 million over the cap. They can replace more expensive players with cheaper ones in the draft, and also ask veteran players to restructure, but in a year after the Steelers had to become scrappy in order to be 8-8 it should give the Browns an opportunity to play catch-up. The same with the Ravens who feature some very expensive deals with Joe Flacco, Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs and even Ray Rice. The Ravens will have some tough choices as well. That is the good news. The bad news? The Bengals aren’t in bad shape with their projected $22 million available.
It should be fun to watch this Browns team attack their second free agency with this much cap space. I know most Browns fans are hoping it really does start at home with T.J. Ward and Alex Mack, two of the Pro Bowl players mentioned in Jimmy Haslam’s sales pitch to Browns fans this past offseason. There’s no telling how highly the Browns value their two free agents, but it’s hard to imagine there’s anyone out there who can pay much more.
For what it is worth, Davone Bess’ contract is fully guaranteed for 2014, meaning that (unless the team can recoup any of these funds through legal action), cutting him would not save the team any additional money. [↩]