Cleveland Browns can take advantage of free agent discounts in 2021

Cleveland Browns offseason. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Cleveland Browns offseason. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /
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Cleveland Browns
Cleveland Browns. (Photo by NFL via Getty Images) /

Here is what the average NFL team’s budget looks like

This is what the average NFL team looks like, based on an annual cap limit of $180 million and $7.1 million in carryover dollars saved from previous years.

Sportswriters often make the mistake of assuming that teams are going to spend all of their carryover dollars every offseason, but this is usually not true unless the team figures it has a legitimate shot to win the Super Bowl, especially if their quarterback is a Drew Brees and the window is closing. It’s stupid to spend carryover dollars for any other purpose.

They also forget that the team has to pay for draft picks (What? They don’t play for free??), and they also have to plan for replacement players if their opening day players go on IR. They would like to spend the same amount for free agents as they did last year, or $29.1 million dollars in first-year cap charges, on average.

Overall the average payroll is already $176.0 million for 2021.

As you can see, the numbers don’t add up, and the average team is way over budget. To stay within the annual cap allowance, they need to cut or refinance about $37.2 million. If they spend every bit of carryover (which is usually stupid, unless they are a team whose Super Bowl window is rapidly closing), they still have to cut $30.1 million as a minimum.

2021 Annual Salary Cap Allowance                              $180.0 million

2021 Carryover Dollars, NFL Average                          $     7.1 million

Max team spending limit                                                 $187.1 million


2021 Payroll commitments as of Feb 20 2021       $176.0 million

2021 NFL Draft Requirement                                            $7.4 million

Undrafted Free agents   (2)                                                $1.2 million

2021 Practice squad  (~12 players)                                 $1.7 million

2021 In season (injury) replacements                            $2.0 million

2021 Free agent budget                                                   $29.1 million

2021 Total  Budget plan                                                 $217.4 million

MINIMUM cuts needed:    $217.4 M – $187.1 M  =  $30.3 million

CUTS TO MAINTAIN CARRYOVER                                   $37.4 million

***Note:  the committed payroll from Over the Cap is only for the top 51 contracts, so two UDFAs are added to bring the roster up to 53.

So how would an NFL team cut $30 to $37 million from their budget?