The Cleveland Browns are playing salary cap chess
The Cleveland Browns have become the undisputed champions of the NFL salary cap. This may not sound like much, particularly when championship cap management has yet to pay off in victories on the field. But right now, the Browns are operating the salary cap at a level that even NFL executives not only fail to understand but are afraid will change the very nature of NFL cap management.
The Browns have pulled off some of the most innovative salary cap related moves in recent NFL history. They traded a 2017 fourth-round pick for Brock Osweiler and the Houston Texans’ second-round pick. That second-round pick ultimately became Nick Chubb.
But that trade is not about the particulars. With that trade, the Browns left the realm of the traditional NFL way of managing the salary cap. Instead of using the cap to pay players to make the team better. They went rogue and used cap space to help a team out of salary cap hell in exchange for a high future draft pick.
This move fundamentally altered how the cap was used in the NFL. Never before had a team ever conceived of using cap space as a commodity in an NFL transaction. That is, the Houston Texan’s traded a high draft pick to shift 16 million dollars off their salary cap and onto the Browns salary cap. By trading Brock Osweiler, the Texans took his $16 million salary off of their books and put it on the Browns books. The Browns promptly released Osweiler before the season eating his cap number. Freeing up the cap space cost the Texan’s a 2017 second-round pick. The move was completely unprecedented in NFL history.
The cliché likes to be thrown around that some people are playing chess while others are playing checkers. With this move, the Browns not only left the realm of checkers but they began playing salary cap chess at an extremely high level.
Today the Browns almost pulled off another unprecedented cap move in NFL history. This time the design was a sign and trade scheme involving the New Orleans Saints.