Sashi Brown the inventor of Salary Cap Chess
The Browns were a mess on the field under Sashi Brown. This was due mostly to employing the worst coach in NFL history. But making draft picks was not a strong suit of the former executive vice president of football operations.
What Sashi did best was manipulate the salary cap. He orchestrated the Osweiler trade that fundamentally altered the way cap space was used in the NFL. Instead of using as much cap space as possible to put the best team on the field, Sashi manipulated the cap to obtain a large amount of cap space then use that space as a commodity to acquire draft picks from teams who mismanage their cap.
The mechanics of it were fundamentally simple. He used the rollover rule to its fullest advantage. He lowered the salary cap below the required 80 percent by trading away or cutting most of the Browns expensive players. The unused portion of the cap rolled over into the next cap year.
For example, let’s say the salary cap is $100 million (the current salary cap is about $200 million). If a team only uses $90 million, the extra $10 million is added on to the next year’s cap. In this scenario, if the cap remained the same, the team would have $110 million in cap space instead of the $100 million the rest of the league has available.
Sashi manipulated this to give the Browns a $30 million cap rollover by far the highest in the league at the time. In this fictional scenario, it would mean the Browns would have $130 million in cap available. But if they only used $80 million, the next year the Browns would have $50 million in rollover giving them $180 million in cap space (provided the cap stayed at $100 million with no increases).
By using the rollover rule to manipulate cap space, Sashi put the Browns in a position to have large amounts of money available to sign players. But when the money was available, nobody wanted to sign with a team in the midst of going 1-31. So, Sashi did was Sashi does best, the manipulated the cap to acquire draft picks.
Old school general managers were still using all their cap space to acquire players to maintain competitive balance. But Sashi was acquiring cap space. He then made the infamous Osweiler trade. He used the extra rollover cap space to alleviate another team’s cap problems in exchange for high draft picks. Thus was invented salary cap chess.
But it was almost lost for the Browns. Sashi was fired. New general manager and believer in salary cap checkers John Dorsey quickly began spending all of that extra cap space. He almost entirely destroyed the awesome advantage Sashi gave the Browns.
But a new salary cap hero emerged on the scene. His name? Andrew Berry.