3 contract decisions that will pay off for Cleveland Browns

  • A big-time 2023 free agent pickup
  • A 2022 trade and restructure
  • Keeping Za'Darius Smith around for the long-term
Cleveland Browns
Cleveland Browns / Nick Cammett/GettyImages
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The Cleveland Browns are not really in a position to care too much about the distant future. Some salary cap decisions have been made in recent years that have put the team in a potentially sticky situation down the road, but if you're one of the 12 NFL teams that have never won a Super Bowl, you've got to take some more desperate measures than other teams.

And the Cleveland Browns need to win some games. The AFC North is certainly expected to belong to the Cincinnati Bengals by most people this season, but the Cleveland Browns might be knocking on that door as well. They have a very good roster overall and that's thanks to some good contract decisions that will pay off for the team, as early as 2023.

Let's take a look at the top three.

Top 3 contract decisions that will pay off for the Cleveland Browns

1. Doing what it takes to acquire Za'Darius Smith

The Cleveland Browns may not be a "destination" franchise in the NFL but they landed one of the league's most underrated pass rushers this offseason. Za'Darius Smith is a three-time Pro Bowl selection and over the last four seasons, he's averaging 12 sacks and 29 QB hits per 17 games.

Now you're adding that into the mix with a guy like Myles Garrett?

This could be the move that really pushes the Browns' defense over the top, not to put too much pressure on Za'Darius Smith or anything.

So what was the contract decision that was made here? Ultimately, the Browns signed Smith to a one-year deal worth over $11 million in total money, but they kicked a lot of that money down the road via void years in the contract. Smith will not be under contract in 2024 or 2025 (at this point) but will carry a salary cap charge of over $3 million in 2024 and over $5.6 million in 2025.

Those cap charges equate to 2.0 percent of the cap or less, meaning they are negligible in the grand scheme of things. At least when you compare the impact of those cap hits to having a player like Smith on the roster right now.