The Browns no longer have megabucks for free agents
The NFL trade deadline may be just as scary as Halloween, given the state of the Browns budget. It’s possible that the Browns could make a move on Halloween, but if they do there will be real consequences for 2024. The main issue is that the Browns will be paying 25% of their cap allowance on Deshaun Watson‘s contract next season unless they extend and restructure his deal. The Chiefs spent 17% of their cap allowance on Patrick Mahomes in 2022, shattering the previous record of 13.1% held by Steve Young and the 49ers since 1994. Now, everybody thinks “our guy is just as good” and teams are willing to spend on non-superstars like Ryan Tannehill (18.5%), Carson Wentz, Kirk Cousins (15.1%), and Jared Goff (14.9%).
Currently the cap allowance is set to grow to an estimated $256 million in 2024. according to Overthecap.com, pus the Browns have $34 million unspent for 2023 which they can apply to 2024, or $256 +$34 million = $290 million.
However, they have 41 players already signed who account for $269 million. They must add seven drafted players (say, $10 million) plus five undrafted free agents ($4 million) plus money for in-season injury replacements ($5 million) and a practice squad $4 million, bringing their total expenditures to $269 + $10 +$4 +$5 + $4 = $292 million. They already about spent out, meaning they will have to cut or trade some veterans to get under the cap in 2024. But they also have to replace Zadarius Smith, Shelby Harris, Sione Takitaki, Grant Delpit, Maurice Hurst, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Rodney McLeod, Anthony Walker, Cory Bojorquez, Marquise Goodwin, Kareem Hunt and Harrison Bryant among others. Are you sure you want to blow some additional money in 2023, knowing it will result in 2024 budget cuts? As it is, these players will be mostly replaced by draft picks and undrafted rookie free agents, not high priced veterans.
The problem is that they will owe some huge salaries in 2024: notably, Deshaun Watson $64 M, Amari Cooper $23.8 M, Denzel Ward $23.6 M and Myles Garrett $20.2 M and Nick Chubb $16.2 M. Offensive linemen Jed Wills, Jack Conklin, Joel Bitonio and Wyatt Teller are all over $10 million, and it’s mostly guaranteed. By the way, nobody wants Conklin because of his injury history and Wills just hasn’t performed, so forget about trading them. Cooper and Chubb are the main players who have partially non-guaranteed money that could be recovered.
This is not to say that they would not make a deal at the deadline if they thought they could win the Super Bowl by doing so. The Dawg Pound has been clamoring for a new quarterback, dissatisfied with backups Dorian Thompson-Robinson and P.J. Walker. But would the Browns really do that if they believe Deshaun Watson is in fact going to come back at some point this season? And has any NFL team ever won the Super Bowl by trading for a quarterback in mid-season? Ever? Creating a “Quarterback Controversy” by bringing someone like Carson Wentz for two or three weeks would be monstrously stupid. However, it may be correctly argued that that has never stopped the Browns before.
A trade for a running back may make more sense. Has Tennessee really given up on a Wild Card at this point in the season at one game under .500? Are they really so desperate for a third round pick that they would trade a future Hall of Fame player like Derrick Henry for that pick? That’s what we are being told. However, these rumors are coming from greedy fan sites around the league, and not from Nashville. Steve DelVecchio from Larry Browns sports suggests that the Titans really don’t want to trade him so the price would be more like a second round pick and probably a few goodies from the 2025 draft as well. Also, don’t forget that the Ravens and Steelers may also be after his services, and neither of them have to pay their quarterback $64 million next season.
The Browns will probably make some sort of addition, but not nearly on the titanic scale that fans hope for. The Browns do not have major cap dollars to throw around and do not have draft resources either. It might make more sense to give where they feel they have an adequate replacement and receive a player at a position where they are too thin. Giving up a defensive tackle for an offensive tackle might be a good trade, for example, without a major salary cap impact one way or the other. OT is looking banged up right now, but on the other hand they have Tommy Togiai on the practice squad at DT who could be promoted to fill in if they were to create a vacancy. Perhaps two separate deals could be pursued.
The Browns went down in flames against the Seahawks, self destructing at the very end of the game, 24-20. One interpretation: the coaches couldn’t bear to let the defense win the game for them. They had to have the offense controlling the ball at the end. So, at the end an interception did them in and they died an excruciating Brown and Orange self-induced death. We told them what would happen. Honest, we did.