Cleveland Browns: What to do with Jarvis Landry?

Cleveland Browns. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Cleveland Browns. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports /
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Cleveland Browns
Cleveland Browns. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

The financial situation

After being traded, Landry signed a five-year $75 million contract, which was quite rich for a slot receiver at the time. He has two seasons remaining on that deal and is due $14.8 million and $16.6 million, respectively. That would make him the 10th-highest-paid receiver in the league, ahead of players like Robert Woods, Tyler Lockett, Adam Thielen, DeAndre Hopkins, and Stefon Diggs.

However, he can be cut or traded with just a $3 million dead cap hit, since he has very little guaranteed money remaining. But why would the Browns even consider moving a productive player like Landry? They have plenty of money, right?

Not really. The 2021 NFL salary cap is projected to be around $180 million due to COVID-19 shortfalls. Right now, Cleveland has about $192 million in active cap for 2021 according to Spotrac. The Browns will be overspending the cap for the fourth year in a row, yet they still have cap space thanks to the rollover that has been continued since 2016. The goal for that space was to allow the team to extend its key young players (Mayfield, Denzel Ward, Myles Garrett, etc.) while retaining the ability to improve and extend other positions through free agency.

Spotrac projects the Browns to have just under $19 million in space this offseason, while Over The Cap is slightly more optimistic at $24.6 million. Assuming the actual number is somewhere in the middle, things aren’t looking great financially, and while the Browns are significantly better off than the majority of the NFL, the cap decreasing this offseason really throws a wrench into the team’s long-term plans.

That active cap number does not include pending free agents like Olivier Vernon, Kevin Johnson, Terrance Mitchell, Karl Joseph, B.J. Goodson, Malcolm Smith, Larry Ogunjobi, Cody Parkey, Rashard Higgins, KhaDarel Hodge, Tavierre Thomas, Porter Gustin, and others.

Cleveland has at least six starting spots to fill this season, to say nothing of improving the nearly non-existent depth on defense.

Mayfield and Hooper will see significant cap hit jumps in 2022, and so will Wyatt Teller as long as he is extended. Garrett’s cap hit skyrockets from $13 million in 2022 to over $29 million in 2023, and by that point, Mayfield will be on a new contract as well.

The Browns are also set to spend nearly $34 million on the WR position in 2021, a number which does not include Marvin Hall, Higgins, or Hodge. For the amount of impact that the team got from the WR room in 2020, that’s completely unacceptable. And with the future cap outlook, it’s a near certainty that major financial changes will be happening very soon.

There are two players on the roster with large cap hits and small dead cap numbers: Landry and Sheldon Richardson ($13.7 million hit, $1.7 million dead). Those are the team’s only avenue to easily create space right now. Restructures are possible, perhaps even likely, with some players, but those will likely be small changes.

But Landry is too valuable to the offense, right? Surely the Browns cannot afford to lose him.