Cleveland Browns Andrew Berry tightens the screws on cap space

CLEVELAND, OHIO - DECEMBER 08: Cleveland Browns fans celebrate during the second half against the Cincinnati Bengals at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 08, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Browns defeated the Bengals 27-19. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OHIO - DECEMBER 08: Cleveland Browns fans celebrate during the second half against the Cincinnati Bengals at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 08, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Browns defeated the Bengals 27-19. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /
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Cleveland Browns
CLEVELAND, OHIO – SEPTEMBER 08: Cleveland Browns fans during the first half against the Tennessee Titans at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 08, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

Deep dive into Cleveland Browns 2020 finances

This page is for salary cap math, if you like that sort of thing. Or you can take my word  for it the Browns are slightly overspent this year compared to their overall annual salary cap allowance, but they still have a very good salary cap situation and have saved more money from previous years than any other NFL team.

If they do move David Njoku, or if they find some rookie free agents they like, they could sneak under their annual salary cap allowance. I didn’t think that was possible, back in March. To review terminology which, by the way, sometimes varies between and,

Carryover dollars are the money saved up from previous years and can be thought of as the Browns savings account. The Browns are in good shape, with

$30,500,147, using Spotrac’s numbers. OvertheCap has the same value.

Annual Cap Allowance is the yearly amount that each NFL team is allowed to spend on player salaries for the year – $198,200,000,  just like every other team in the NFL.

Adjusted Salary Cap, the sum of annual cap allowance plus carryover, the max that a team is allowed to spend for the season.  But the Browns are not really going to spend all of their savings in one year, any more than you are going to spend the money you were saving for a house and spend it all on a Ferrari, when you can only afford the first monthly payment anyway – $228,700,247

Top 51 salaries is used differently by Spotrac and Overthecap. Overthecap just sums the Top 51 2020 cap charges.

Why 51 instead of 53, since the regular-season roster is 53 players? The idea is that the NFL wants to let teams have some cushion during training camp and allow players to compete. By rule, the top 51 salary cap charges have to be lower than the adjusted salary cap during the offseason.

Teams don’t count dead money (see below) in the offseason, but they do count it during the regular season. So it’s easier to comply with the salary cap in the offseason.  Spotrac includes Dead Money in their Top 51, but Over The Cap does not, so their figures for the Browns differ by $12,450,237. Don’t panic, read on.

Dead Money is guaranteed money from contracts of players no longer with the team, like Austin Corbett. Spotrac includes dead money in their Top 51 Over The Cap doesn’t include dead money because the NFL does not require teams to include it until the season starts.

However, if dead money isn’t included, it looks like the team’s payroll is $12,450,237 lower than it actually is. They cannot sign players with dead money in the regular season. So Top 51 as of July 12  is listed at  $189,931,327 by Spotrac; $177,481,090 by Over The Cap —with $12,450,237 added separately, give or take a few bucks.

We are going to use the Spotrac method, but it doesn’t matter, just as long as you remember you can’t spend that $2 million on free agents, okay?

For that matter, when the regular season starts, we have to add two additional salaries to go from Top 51 to the actual regular-season roster, which consists of 53 players. Adding two additional salaries to fill the 53 player roster  to the bottom of the roster results in a cap charge of about

$1,405,998, or slightly less if they go with first-year rookies.

As mentioned, draft choices are very late to sign their contracts this year. This isn’t a typical year, due to COVID-19, and every team is short of cash.

$8,739,537 is the rookie draft choice salary pool replacing salaries 46-53 The net difference is


The Practice Squad rules may change due to COVID-19, but if they do, the cap probably changes with them. Under the original rules, the practice squads were going to increase from 10 to 12 players, with most salaries at $8,400 and a few at up to $12,000 per week, based on prior NFL experience. I am just going to guess an average of $10000 * 12 players * 16 games = $1,920,000. 

Another expense is the signing of replacement players when players are injured and placed on Injured Reserve. The replacements are often at or near the NFL minimum salary, but sometimes it might be someone who commands a more significant salary.  This year it could even be a Pro Bowl-caliber player. For the moment, let us budget 10 players for an average of 8 games and a cost of

$3,000,000 .

Okay, so let’s add it all up:

$189,931,327  Top 51 (including dead money)

$1,405,998    (two additional salaries)

$3,593,427   (net increase due to draft picks $8,739,537 – $5,146,110)

$1,920,000  (practice squad)

$3,000,000  (injury replacements)

$0 free agent signings

$0 NFL trade deadline deals

$0 Waiver deals,  end of summer camp deals

($0) Replacing veterans with undrafted rookies

($0) Trade David Njoku

$0 extension for Myles Garrett


$199,850,752 Estimated 2020 Expenditures as of 7/13/2020. This estimate is considerably lower than I had estimated earlier this off-season. I was hoping for a headline that would read “Clowney is a Brownie” but it did not happen. That is much less like now that they have guaranteed some money for Vernon.

Hence the Browns appear on their way to overspend their budget by about $1,650,752,000. If Njoku is traded for a draft pick, or if some of the undrafted rookies displace a few veterans, the Browns could come in under budget.