A one-game playoff run wasn't what the Cleveland Browns hoped for after going 11-6 this season but it was still quite the accomplishment. They overcame some serious injuries on both sides of the ball — although their offense was hit the hardest. They not only lost Nick Chubb but also Deshaun Watson and Jack Conklin.
Cleveland continued to fight and find a way to win, even pulling off four in a row to lock up a playoff spot. The fact that they won with reserves should give them hope going forward. Even so, they're going to need to fill in a few holes and find some game-changers on offense.
That's easier said than done since the Browns are low on capital. Not only are they without a pick in Round 1 yet again, but they also enter the offseason nearly $17 million over the cap. With that being the case, here's a look at four contracts that are currently holding the franchise back.
4. Amari Cooper, WR
You would be hard-pressed to find a more avid fan of Amari Cooper than this writer but that doesn't mean his contract isn't an issue heading into 2024. Cooper is second on the team with a cap number of $23.77 million. That puts him ahead of Denzel Ward and Myles Garrett who are each younger — and Garrett is an NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate nearly every year.
Cooper, who is the first player in Cleveland history to record back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving campaigns, is a major weapon. He's been able to record 2,410 yards on 150 receptions despite inconsistent quarterback play but he's also going to be 30 next year and has had some injury concerns.
In 2023, he missed Week 17 and 18 — although Week 18 was a meaningless game where many starters sat. Then in the playoffs, he finished with just 59 yards on four receptions as he was noticeably banged up. As good as Cooper is, Browns fans should remember how quickly things fell off for Jarvis Landry when he started to get banged up.
This isn't to say Cooper needs to be cut, but they need to do whatever they can to re-work his deal. They'll never be able to fix the weapons on offense while paying him nearly $24 million.