5 worst Cleveland Browns cap moves of the 2022 offseason
2. Cutting Austin Hooper didn’t recover much cap space
Austin Hooper should not have been cut. This may surprise readers of this space because this author has complained all offseason that Mayfield was much too reliant on both Hooper and Landry. Opposing defenses allowed these two receivers to make catches short of the first down marker and choked off too many Browns drives. This isn’t the fault of the receivers, however. Either the coach was calling the wrong plays, or the quarterback was not executing properly.
Hooper is a two-time Pro-Bowler. Admittedly, he was substituting for others who were injured, but even so, it’s an impressive accomplishment. He was very reliable for Atlanta and he will probably be fine for Tennessee. He was overpaid, but the Browns guaranteed substantial portions of his deal, and that cannot be undone.
Thus, the Browns are being charged a total of $11.3 million versus the 2022 and 2023 salary caps on Hooper’s behalf, while he is playing for the Tennessee Titans. If they had kept Hooper, they would have paid him $13.3 million. So why not keep him, and have the services of a good (not great, but good) tight end? With Mayfield gone, he is going to be much more effective as a secondary receiver on most plays.
They only saved $2.1 million to have him play for someone else. They might have made themselves feel better, but it was not a sound football move. The choices were to pay $13.3 million and have a tight end who starts for Cleveland, or pay $11.3 million to have him start for another team.
Less Hooper would be a better Hooper. Throwing the five-yard pass to Hooper was Mayfield’s trademark last season. If he had instead found Donovan Peoples-Jones, OBJ, Njoku, or Chubb on some of those pass plays, the Browns might have extended some drives.
As it is, they have only Njoku and Harrison Bryant as quality tight ends on the roster. After that, it’s longshot kids. Maybe the Browns know something we don’t, but I am not nearly as excited about the tight ends as the wide receivers.