August 26, 2014

Browns 2014 cap space projected to be over $45 million

Haslam and Banner 595 width

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.

[Related: Indianapolis Colts hire Rob Chudzinski as special assistant]

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Footnotes:

  1. 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. []
  • @TheDeePagel

    Wait….I don’t understand…you mean there is optimism, and it’s not all dooms day???

    Huh…imagine that.

  • boomhauertjs

    Money not spent in free agency = money for Jimmy’s defense fund

  • Backwoods

    You mean unlike all the cap space we had last off season to prop up THAT new coaching staff? Maybe we can get the fan base excited with another great Paul Kruger esque signing!

    I would say Golden Tate, but this statement kind of shoots that idea down once you read between the lines a little bit.
    “I have a number in mind,” Tate said Wednesday. “In my eyes, I’d rather stay and play in a great organization (NOT CLEVELAND), in a great city (NOT CLEVELAND) around great people(NOT CLEVELAND), around great teammates (NOT CLEVELAND) for a little less, than going to a crappy city (CLEVELAND)and win a ball game every now and then (CLEVELAND) and be miserable for six months (CLEVELAND) and have a fan base that doesn’t care about the sport. You have to give a little or take a little.”

    But, other than that, it kind of fits the type of signing we need. A big enough name to generate interest that we’d have to grossly overpay for a position that isn’t very useful until we find a QB. Seems kinda perfect, don’t ya think?

  • RGB

    It’s easy be positive about 45 meeeeeellion dollars. :D
    Unless it’s in the hands of Lombanner. :(
    How was that?

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    re the rollover number chris used:

    overthecap says:
    I believe the two sides made a quick side agreement to make the cap money automatically roll over. No team missed it last year.

    that contradicts spotrac who says:
    Does it continue to rollover like cellphone minutes?
    No. Rollover money from 2012 into 2013 is treated as “adjusted cap”. Any unused “adjusted” money in 2013 cannot be rolled over again into 2014.

    the browns rolled ~12MM from 2012 into 2013. chris’ (and overthecap’s) numbers assume the ‘heckert money’ can be applied. but the phrasing ‘i believe.. quick side deal..’ seems a little squishy.

    it would nice if a paid journalist with access to berea could nail this down once and for all.

  • BenRM

    I read this as: There is no excuse for not re-signing Mack and Ward.

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    btw, a year ago the browns had the best cap situation of any team in the league. (as of 2/13/2013 the bengals had a lower number but still had smith and johnson to sign.)

    so… it’s that translation of cap space into wins that’s the tricky part.

  • Backwoods

    For the most part, it isn’t. Cap space available equals low win totals. Now, the ceiling for those wins is what is in question. A decent GM could spend that dough and improve the team good enough to hover around .500, which, Cleveland fans would be thrilled with (at least for a season or two) but to set the team up for future success and a higher ceiling, of course it is tricky.

    Although a big part of me thinks that the attitude and culture does need a shock and a couple of 8-8 outings may do the franchise wonders.

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    last one. spotrac agrees with chris and estimates browns at 46M and says this:

    While the Raiders and Jaguars top the list of projected 2014 salary cap space, the Cleveland Browns at #3 may be the most favorable situation, with just 7 unrestricted free agents set to hit the market (2 notable in center Alex Mack and safety T.J. Ward). The padded cap space allows them room to not only shop the open market, but front-load some of their core talent set to expire in 2015 (Joe Haden, Jordan Cameron, etc) should they be sold on them long-term.

  • woofersus

    I read the rules to say that the unused 2013 money can be rolled over, but the 2012 money cannot, so their rollover from last year is not 24.54, but 12.54, making the 2014 available money around $40 million.
    The interesting thing is that it doesn’t really increase space for long term deals, since excess rollover money this year doesn’t really increase our cap next year or the year after that, except that the money we don’t spend from the actual cap each year is available the next. If they sign players totaling 20 million in commitments this year and 30 million in commitments next year, they can assume that around 8 million will roll over from this year’s cap and make their effective cap hit 22 million. That would still only leave them 6 million plus however much the cap increases for 2015. (obviously ignoring other salaries being shed for one reason of another) That $40 million disappears pretty fast when a third of the money is temporary.

    It doesn’t seem like this particular rule helps rebuilding teams very much. Maybe it’s just a way to help keep veterans from getting caught in a money crunch and cut from good teams? One year deals aren’t very common in the NFL.

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    agreed and i was being facetious: there’s no correlation between lots of cap room and significantly increased win totals in that year.

  • Harv 21

    “so… it’s that translation of cap space into wins that’s the tricky part.”

    This x brazillion. Assets like cap space are just future possibilities that can be activated or wasted. They are not good players or wins. Like the first rounder for Trent. Like Heckert’s feast of picks in ’12. Like the Cavs draft picks coming up. Getting the pole position is nice but does nada if your car and driver are no good.

  • mgbode

    that’s great. we have cap space (we all knew that, but good to see the actual numbers). now, what will we do with it? there were several of us that were upset that we didn’t fill obvious holes with quality guys at ILB (Ellerbe), OG (Vasquez), and such.

  • RGB

    Shhhh…you’ll upset the Lombanner supporters.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Those two you named would be tremendous signings which means it won’t happen. Instead they’ll probably overpay another DL and bring in a few marginal secondary players.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    OY VEY!

  • simond

    Jimmy haslam will invent the rebate contract.

  • CB Everett

    There were a ton of holes to fill, but I agree with you on Vasquez and Ellerbe. I do think they wanted to see what they had in a number of “unknown” quantities (CB, S, OG, ILB). They were probably hoping a Lavao/Pinkston would emerge and solidify a spot–saving them there. Certainly Robertson didn’t emerge as a starting caliber ILB–a gamble that wasn’t worth the taking IMO, especially with DQ not being great in the 3-4. On the plus side, we got better than expect play in the secondary from Gipson and Skrine.

  • palper

    “Lombanner” supporters? The snark here has reached 5 year old levels. As a Lombanner supporter no amount of cap space or free agent signings are going to amount to squat until high caliber QB is found. No amount of spending on ILB, CB, or OG will change that. It’s not rocket science.

  • mgbode

    they were names from last year. they cannot happen this year.

  • mgbode

    my main issue was that we were sitting on that pile of cap money but decided to neither re-up with our own good players last summer (Ward, Mack) nor aggressively attack our holes. Even the spots where we had guys step up more than we expected (CB-Skrine, TE-Cameron) it still left us very thin at the positions.

    But, I’m still open-minded on things. I’m willing to see what they do now. I’m not asking for them to throw $15mil/year at DeMarcus Ware, but I am asking for them to be aggressive and get some key pieces to make this a better team moving forward.

  • mgbode

    there is no doubt we have to find a QB, but we are unlikely to find him in FA. we need to utilize FA to make the team as good as possible for whatever QB we put under center.

  • RGB

    Yep.
    There are all new tremendous names for us not to sign this year.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I was trying to remember what I wrote a year ago and repost it.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    So don’t address the other multiple needs until you find a QB? This franchise hasn’t been able to find one since 1999 what makes you think things will be different this attempt?

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Mack may not want to return so there’s always the “we tried but he wasn’t interested.”

  • BenRM

    That’s fair. I’ll rephrase “No excuse for not attempting to re-sign Mack and Ward to deals that are at or about their FMV.”

  • BenRM

    Interestingly, the Niners and Seahawks are in the lower third of teams with available cap space and have 11 and 17 UFA’s, respectively.

    I don’t know who those UFA’s are without a deeper look, but that doesn’t seem like a super position for either team to be in if they want to repeat this year’s success.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    FMV = fair market value? If so I don’t have a problem with them paying a little more even in order to retain some of the talent they actually possess.

  • mgbode

    NO will still have Brees, so they’ll be fine for the most part.

    Pitt & Detroit sure are under the gun as well with all those UFA and not any room.

    Of course, Dallas is in dire straits and may have to cut Ware. That’s what Jerry gets.

  • cbrockman9

    Craig, I keep coming back to a great point you made on a podcast a while back: you can’t pitch the fans, potential coaches, etc. on having six players in the pro bowl and at the same time, let two walk. While Banner has had the reputation of being “shrewd,” I think Haslam will have some say (to say the least) on these two.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Seahawks don’t have many positions they need to upgrade plus they’ve shown in the 1000+ personnel moves they know what they are doing.

  • Chris Pokorny

    For what it’s worth, Spotrac also has an article that supports Over the Cap’s number. I do want to do some more digging into your question, though. http://www.spotrac.com/premium/research/nfl/projected-2014-nfl-team-cap-space-420/

  • tigersbrowns2

    hi guys … keep in mind , asst. GM ray farmer will keep the stooges in-line during free-agency & draft day. this guy knows what he’s doing & will be the browns GM here in the real near future.

  • Chris Pokorny

    Read this (scroll down to “Carry-Over Cap Room”) and see if you agree with their interpretation. I only had time to give it a quick glance, but I think it says teams are allowed to rollover continuously: http://www.cincyjungle.com/2013/2/13/3980246/minimum-cash-spend-requirement-under-the-cba

  • BenRM

    good points both. It will be fun to keep an eye on, though. If for no other reason than being a measuring stick for where the Browns should want to be.

  • mgbode

    Disqus has a good memory of such things if you don’t mind scrolling through your old posts. One of these days, they will actually allow you to search (at least I hope).

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    yes, it’s useful but doesnt seem possible that the league and players would go to such lengths to arrive at a cap number, establish a spend floor (to ensure players get the x%)…. and then leave open a hole where a team can simply not spend and rollover unused dough until 2016.

    what it still confusing to me is how the 2012 (pre-CBA) rollover is handled. if the heckert stash is available to us for use any time up to 2016, great. just seems like a big miss on the NFLPA’s part but then again that wouldn’t be a first.

    the separate issue is whether cap space hoarding is a good way to build a winning team.. but that’s for another day.

    fwiw, attached is a nice graphical look at the browns go-forward cap sitch from last year.

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    yep to all this, but it’s water under the bridge now.

    what i lose some patience with is this idea that mack will be lost because banner doesn’t want to pay a center left tackle dollars in the franchise tag scenario. like: HEY! JOE! SHOULDA THOUGHT OF THAT LAST OFFSEASON! no, the correct narrative is that banner missed on the talent eval and underrated the market value of the best UFA center in 2014. it’s smartest guy in the room stuff that blew up in his face.

    his move now should be to say: i effed up, we want to keep mack, and fortunately we have a pile of money available to get this done. his move will be to leak that shanahan wanted bigger run blocker types and mack didnt fit the system so we really didnt want him. we will be spun, bank on it.

  • mgbode

    shanahan wants bigger OL?

    and making a 2nd mistake doesn’t always make things better. i’m okay letting Mack go instead of paying him LT money IF he goes and spends the money wisely on other players.

    there is a reason that good OG/OC are the only positions that regularly see really good players leave their teams via FA.

    note: doesn’t mean I’m happy about it. i’m mad he didn’t sign Mack last July. i want him to go after him for even slightly above FMV now. but, to go crazy LT money? no. that’s not smart business.

  • CB Everett

    FWIW, I think Shanahan is seeking the opposite. In his zone blocking, my understanding is that he wants quicker/more agile guard play (which is likely smaller guys). In other words, no Pinkston & Lav. I suspect Mack is great enough to be a fit in any scheme.

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    dont disagree with you or mgb, just saying that the berea track record is to spin/obfuscate and so if/when mack leaves expect to see an MKC report quoting ‘league sources’ that the browns wanted a ‘more physical’ ‘run-blocking’ o-line.

  • mgbode

    ok, well we need to re-start this whole conversation now :)

  • tigersbrowns2

    what a great day !! … congrats to ray farmer … this guy will get the job done.