Player by player value analysis
NFL contracts are written in such a way that the first-year salary-cap charge is discounted, so the 2020 cap will be charged $32.8 million for the 10 new Cleveland Browns free-agent signees whose average year cap charges total $48.65 million. The first-year discount, using numbers from Spotrac.com as of April 14, 2020, is $15.79 million.
The biggest names are tackle Jack Conklin, tight end Austin Hooper, quarterback Case Keenum, fullback Andy Janovich, defensive end Adrian Clayborn, defensive tackle Andrew Billings, cornerback Kevin Johnson, linebacker B.J. Goodson, safety Karl Joseph and safety Andrew Sendejo.
The Browns believe in Baker Mayfield and thus they believe in protecting him. This year the Browns have addressed one tackle position with Jack Conklin, a still-young 26-year-old with Pro Bowl experience. The tackle position has “hidden value” in that the team reduces the risk of losing the first-string quarterback. They still need another one in the draft, however.
More from Dawg Pound Daily
- How the Browns could maximize Nick Chubb in 2023
- Can Deshaun Watson get to Patrick Mahomes level for Cleveland Browns?
- 3 Cleveland Browns who should see an expanded role in 2023 and 1 who should not
- Is Marcus Davenport on the Browns radar in 2023?
- 5 Free agents from Super Bowl LVII Cleveland Browns should target
Austin Hooper likewise fits a team built around cold-weather natural turf, which runs the ball and uses the tight end as a receiver. Hooper fits the corporate belief system of the franchise.
If the Browns do not believe in big-ticket linebackers like Joe Schobert and Christian Kirksey — and apparently they do not — that means that they believe they can get by with rotational players at that position. B.J. Goodson grades well with Pro Football Focus but has never been used on every down. He’s vastly less expensive than Schobert or Kirksey.
Defensive tackle Andrew Billings can add some heft to a defensive front that was unable to stop the run last year. The Browns were 30th in the NFL in rushing yards as well rushing yards per attempt. Billings, as well as Adrian Clayborn, may be situational players as they are currently not listed at the top of the depth chart, according to ourlads.com.
Similarly, Kevin Johnson graded as the 22nd best cornerback in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus, but he was not a starter and was on the field for only 32 percent of his team’s snaps last year.
Would you rather have Case Keenum (who went 11-3 as a starter with Kevin Stefanski as his quarterback coach in Minnesota) or Drew Stanton (who has 11 wins as a starter in his career)? Keenum’s 2020 cap charge is actually lower than Stanton’s 2019 cap charge. This is a no brainer. This exchange favors the Browns.
How much will it hurt to lose the players earned $52.7 million last year? Only Schobert, Murray and Burris are getting a pay raise for leaving Cleveland. Moreover, Kevin Johnson, Karl Joseph, and Andrew Sendejo all are rated higher than Murray and Burris, according to Pro Football Focus.
Overall, the 16 former Browns will be paid about $23.7 million in year one (at press time, numbers were not available for tight end Ricky Seals-Jones, so his contract is guessed to be worth a million dollars),
There are still other players as yet unsigned, including Greg Robinson, Drew Stanton, Morgan Burnett, Adarius Taylor, Rashard Higgins, and Bryan Cox Jr. It’s not how many of these players will actually find gainful employment in the NFL this year (Robinson is trying to stay out of jail and Burnett may or may not be recovered from Achilles surgery), but last year their contracts cost the Browns $17.7 million using numbers from Spotrac.com.
This year, as a guess, the total value might be $2 million. In other words, the Browns have managed to clear their payroll of big-ticket players with low current value. Cleveland fans have warm regard for Higgins, but he only had four receptions last year.
If you look at what the Browns are paying and who are they getting, they are light years better off. Joe Schobert is the main loss. At every other position, the Browns have improved, and even then there is controversy about how good Schobert is because he makes a lot of tackles but misses more than he should too.
When you add it all up, the Browns are spending at about the same rate as last year. Their total commitments on the books amount to $198,984,153, just over the cap allowance of $198,200,000.
Of course, the NFL draft has not happened yet, so leave another $8 million for that, plus however much they may need for additional players yet this pre-season or during the season as injuries occur. They will substantially overspend the cap allowance, and they can cover that because they still have some $30 million in carryover cap space saved from previous years.
So, the Browns are getting the new players at a big discount. But what happens next year, when all the cap charges increase?