5 moves the Browns can make to free up $71 million in cap space

The Cleveland Browns have more room than it seems when it comes to the salary cap

Cleveland Browns, Nick Chubb
Cleveland Browns, Nick Chubb / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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1. Restructure Deshaun Watson ($33.59 million)

This is by far the biggest move. It's also the most necessary if they plan to be active in free agency.

Cleveland could free up enough with the previous four moves to sign a couple of players and extend some of their in-house players such as linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. But if they want to go for a splash — like they did in 2023 with Dalvin Tomlinson — they will need the $33.59 million they can create by restructuring Deshaun Watson's deal.

Of course, making this move will lead to a lot of backlash. Watson enters the year with a massive cap number of $63.977 million and since his contract is fully guaranteed, the only thing Cleveland can do is continue to push the money down the road and make the number larger in future years. The only way to keep this from leading to an eventual cap hit of $100 million or more is to add voided years to Watson's contract, essentially paying him even when he's gone.

That's less than ideal, which is why the backlash will come. Then again, going into the season with a cap hit of nearly $64 million on the most disliked player in football will lead to just as much negative publicity.

There's no perfect answer for how to handle Watson and his contract. But for a team trying to capitalize on a championship window, this is the move to make so they can target some big fish in free agency.

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