The NFL legal tampering period might be one of the dumbest rules in the league but it's here. For some reason, the league thinks it's a good idea to allow teams to negotiate deals 48 hours before free agency opens, but doesn't allow them to actually sign those contracts. What this actually accomplishes, no one knows. But instead of just starting free agency on Monday, the Cleveland Browns and the rest of the league will have to wait until Wednesday at 4:00 pm EST to officially sign anyone.
With all that being said, here's a last-minute look at the Browns needs, pending free agents, and potential targets ahead of 2023 NFL Free Agency.
Cleveland Browns lack of cap space is no issue in 2023
Right now, the Browns aren't looking too hot in terms of cap space. They're currently in the third-worst shape in the league at more than $14 million in the red according to OverTheCap.com. The only teams worse are the Buffalo Bills ($19.1 million in the hole) and the New Orleans Saints ($25.2 million over).
But before we panic, just remember that the cap is far from a hard number. Take the Saints for example. They're constantly in "cap hell" but still managed to sign Derek Carr to a four-year deal worth $150 million. There's also the Dallas Cowboys, who were well in the red one week ago but enter free agency with more than $14 million to spend after shifting roster bonuses around for two players.
Cleveland is expected to do the same as Andrew Berry said they'll look at restructuring Deshaun Watson's contract, which currently accounts for $55 million. They can free up an estimated $33.7 million by restructuring his deal as well as $12 million by moving the bonus for Myles Garrett and $14 million with Amari Cooper.
There will be those who are against this philosophy, saying the bill comes due one day, but that's also a myth. Teams such as the Saints continue to kick the can down the road and when they do have a season with a lot of dead money, they simply give out longer "void years" to allow them to pay for players for years after they're gone.
It's unfamiliar territory, which is why there may be some nerves in the Dawg Pound, but competetive teams have been doing this for years. Just be glad the Browns finally have a GM savvy enough to work the cap and aggressive enough to actually try and build a competetive roster — rather than saving cap space and worrying about the future.