Head coach Kevin Stefanski could reach out to his old team, the Minnesota Vikings, and work on a deal that could benefit that team as well as the Cleveland Browns
The Minnesota Vikings are in salary cap trouble, and the Cleveland Browns have cap space, so it makes for the two sides to talk turkey. The Vikes are currently $11.2 million over their salary cap allowance — and that's not counting money to pay draft pick this year — which means they must refinance some major contracts, cut players, or make a trade.
Cleveland is no stranger to salary cap deals. In 2017, the Browns worked a trade in which they paid down $16 million of Houston Texans salary cap by absorbing Brock Osweiler's salary, and were rewarded with a 2018 second-round pick. It was not that they wanted Osweiler, who they cut, they wanted the draft pick that ultimately became Nick Chubb.
A similar trade might work this off-season. Interestingly enough, new Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski is the resident expert on the Vikings personnel, having been the offensive coordinator last year, and having been in the Vikes organization since 2006. There could not be a safer team to deal with in terms of trading for known commodities.
They have several players over 30 who make huge dollars that could go a long way to fixing their salary cap. Also listed is their ranking in the Pro Football Focus grading system, the cap number for 2020, and how much the Vikings could recover on their 2020 salary cap.
Player Position Age PFF Rank Cap Number 2020 Recoverable Dollars
Riley Reif LT 32 38 $13.2 million $8.8 million
Linval Joseph DT 32 42 $12.9 million $10.5 million
Everson Griffen DE 33 26 $13.9 million $13.1 million
The above list does not include Kirk Cousins, Harrison Smith or Xavier Rhodes, who are probably not available for trade.
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Minnesota could just cut one or more of the listed players and recover cap space.
But although these players are perceived to be overpaid, they are still talented members of the team. Getting rid of one or two players and getting nothing back would really suck, to put it bluntly.
But what if you could finagle the salary cap and get something in 2020, perhaps a second-round draft pick, which you would pay back with interest in 2021? That sounds like a good deal for a team that wants to win in 2020, but which needs to cut payroll.
Here is how a deal might work.:
Browns get: pricey but decent Vikings player, 2021 first-round draft pick.
Vikings get: Immediate cap relief, $8.8 million to $13.1 million; 2020 second-round draft pick.
The Vikings are in win-now mode and do not want to just weaken the team by giving up a capable veteran. They need something in return, and a second-round draft pick is probably going to start for them.
What the Browns want to do is manufacture future draft picks, investing to acquire more draft capital in 2021. That goal is accomplished by swapping an immediate number two pick for next year's first-rounder. For a contending team, that kind of deal is almost plausible in its own right. The salary cap incentive should be able to push that type of deal forward to become an obvious win-win.
At the same time, however, the Browns don't weaken their team in the near term. Any of the three Vikings veteran players is going to be an upgrade for 2020, and the first-round pick's value makes it a winning deal when 2021 rolls around, even if the veteran should prove to be a one-year rental.
The player who would help the Browns the most might be left tackle Riley Reiff, who would plug the hole left by Joe Thomas when he retired. It would help Baker Mayfield immensely to have a veteran to replace Greg Robinson, who recently announced he will leave the NFL to devote his life to studying the effects of medicinal marijuana.
However, the Vikings also had problems with the offensive line and might be less inclined to deal Rieff. The amount of cap relief for the Vikings is not as high as it would be for Griffen or Joseph, so a deal might be easier to make based on one of the defensive players. Griffen is probably the best player, affords the most cap relief and still costs less than Browns incumbent Olivier Vernon.
To clarify, this story is not based on any secret rumors or invisible sources. However it is a fact that the Vikings are in a terrible salary cap bind, and the Browns have carryover cap that could be exchanged in a trade. We can only hope that Vikings GM Rick Spielman and Browns GM Andrew Berry read this article and will decide it is a good idea for both teams.