Now that the Browns have re-signed defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, extended tight end David Njoku and tight end Austin Hooper and his contract have officially come off the roster, what is the Browns’ current salary cap situation? Pretty, pretty good. Currently, the Browns have the most cap space in the NFL at $40,965,218.00. The only question that remains is how much of former quarterback Baker Mayfield’s contract are the Browns willing to pay to trade him. Of his $18.8 million contract, the Browns are willing to pay half, ($9 million) while teams interested in trading for him are willing to take on $5 to $6 million, leaving the Browns paying $13 to $14 million. Currently, the team is concentrating on the trade compensation.
As usual, both Clowney’s and Njoku’s contracts were strategically structured. Clowney’s deal is a one-year deal with four voidable years to spread out the $8 million bonus. His 2022 cap figure is $3,467,647.00 which is 1.59% of the salary cap. Njoku’s contract is a four-year deal with one voidable year. His 2022 cap figure is $3,328.000.00 which is 1.53% of the salary cap. The beauty of Njoku’s contract is it’s basically a two-year deal. Starting in year three the Browns have an out if things don’t work out. TE Austin Hooper was designated as a June one roster cut, so he’s officially off the roster and the Browns added $9.5 million back to the cap.
Moving forward, of the $40.9 million available, the Browns will need to keep around $10 million for the practice squad and roster additions needed during the season. As of now, the front office is standing pat at two key positions, wide receiver and defensive tackle. The coaching staff wants to evaluate what the players already have on the roster, but personally, I would feel more comfortable with the addition of another veteran defensive tackle. Despite the most cap space in the league, there is worry the Browns are jeopardizing future cap space because of the spending in 2022.
According to https://overthecap.com/salary-cap-space/ the 2023 NFL salary cap will be set at $225 million. Despite what the national media wants you to believe, Baker Mayfield will not be on the roster when the season starts and will be traded. Let’s say the Browns agree to eat $10 to $12 million of Mayfield’s contract but are allowed to restructure the contract to add voidable years. In this scenario, the team could end up with an additional $14 million in cap savings, creating a potential 2023 rollover of about $42 million. Some restructuring of future contracts will be needed, but that’s expected.
I’ve always said, the NFL salary cap is easy to manipulate but hard to manage. Teams that stay competitive with evolving talented rosters maintain this balance. The Browns are one of those teams.