2014 Off season plan: Part 1, Cap talk.

Screen Shot 2014-03-04 at 11.39.07 AM

Definitely still a chance to keep TJ Ward.

“2014 Off season plan: Part 2, UFA targets” is up.

Ok tumblers are clicking into place.  Now that the tagging season has passed we have a better sense of who is available, positional depth, and so we can do some better projecting of how the Browns cap and the Browns needs will look.

Let’s get methodical.

I’m going to break this into multiple posts.

  1. Salary cap talk (this year’s spend, 2015 keepers,,,)1.
  2. Free agent targets (who fits our holes without putting us in a box where we’re cutting Jabaal Sheard or something).
  3. Fine tuned draft needs (post-UFA) review.
  4. THEN.  Then we start the ‘good draft’ post.

I’m going to break this up into several posts.  Cutting to the chase on today’s post:  I’m arriving at usable cap space for 20142 at between 30M – 40M and that is AFTER extending the top tier free agents whose contracts are up in 2015.

State of the Browns’ salary cap.

Screen Shot 2014-03-04 at 11.47.55 AM

Doesn’t tell full story. Never does.

Browns’ cap looks good if you don’t dig deep.  We show as #3 in available cap space today with 57M up for grabs.  Nice right?  But we need to factor in that there are a slew of cornerstone players with expiring contracts in 2015.  A large chunk of the 57M must be used there.

Okie doke, let’s hit it.  Below is a spreadsheet.  I started with the handy Spotrac Salary-by-year/Yearly-Cap-Hit table and pasted it into Google Docs3 and went from there.

Download (PDF, Unknown)

This table takes today’s salary cap hits, uses the new 133M NFL cap number, applies the 24M of rollover and arrives at a current cap space number.  

THEN –this is the tricky part– we apply some estimates on how the cap space looks if we get proactive on the Class of 2015 UFAs.  I’ve sliced these into tiers like so:

  1. Tier 1: Haden, Taylor, Sheard, Cameron, Hoyer;
  2. Tier 2: Rubin, Skrine, Pinkston, Groves;
  3. Tier 3 (not doing anything with these guys): Little, Ogbonnaya, Lewis, Sanford).

My process here is simple:

  1. Is the subject 2015 UFA a top-5?  Assign franchise number for cap hit;
  2. Top-10?  Assign transition number, or;
  3. Other?  Assign my swag at a percentage of the transition number.

The official tag numbers are here.

Tier 1 UFAs.

As a starting point, let’s project what our Tier 1 guys’ cap hits look like at market rates.

  1. Haden:  top 5 CB –> was 8.9M, now 11.8M.  Comp: Ike Taylor.
  2. Taylor:  top 10 DT –> was 2.6M, now 8.1M.  Comp: between Barry Cofield and Geno Atkins.
  3. Sheard:  let’s say top 20 DE –> was 1.6M, now (10.6M x 80% =) 8.5M.  Comp: Carlos Dunlap.
  4. Cameron:  top 10 TE –> was 1.5M, now 6.1M.  Comp:  Owen Daniels.
  5. Hoyer:  top 20 QB –> was 1.25, now (14.7M x 50% =) 7.3M.  Comp:  between Alex Smith and Cam Newton.4

Subtotal:  Signing the Tier 1 guys, without bonus shenanigans, yields 26.0M in additional cap hits.

Tier 2 UFAs.

Let’s just check to see what these guys might cost.

  1. Rubin:  top 20 DE –> was 8.2, let’s just use the (optimistic) Sheard number, 8.5M
  2. Skrine:  top 50 CB –> was 1.4M, let’s use Darius Butler comp, 3.0M
  3. Pinkston:  top 100 OG –> was 1.4M, let’s keep him flat, 1.4M.  Comp: Clint Boling.
  4. Groves:  top 50 LB –> was 1.1M, let’s keep him flat, 1.1M.  Comp: Zach Brown.

Subtotal #2:  this group’s revised contracts eat up 3.4M more.

If we decide we want to lock-in these current players, we now have 7.7M in cap space and that’s without TJ Ward or any UFAs.

Soooooo… some of these guys are going to get to be UFAs in 2015.  With next year’s cap expected to be north of $140M in 2015, perhaps a Skrine or Pinkston can be kept.  Don’t see any way to lock up Rubin long-term, though.  It’s Rubin or Sheard and with Mingo sitting on the bench no way we keep both… I choose Sheard.

Back to business, let’s scratch the re-do of the Tier 2 2015 contracts.  My math then has us with 11.1M in cap space.  That’s not great.


Through the magic of signing bonus and contract prorations, a better estimate of cap space AFTER extending Haden, Taylor, Sheard, Cameron, Hoyer to the rough numbers outlined above:

I’m coming up with $39M in cap for 2014; $40M in 2015.

Here is the tool I’m using and regrettably, there’s no clean way for me to save and share my work.  But, I’m basically giving all these guys a 10M signing bonus and bumping their contacts up to the numbers above starting in 2015.  Across the board.  I’ve also cut Campbell, Bess, Weeden, and anyone whose name I don’t recognize and that includes Alex Tanney.

Let’s throw in 10M fudge-factor and use a conservative 30M in cap space as available to play with for new UFAs this year and also 30M of cap space for 2015.

That’s good work for today.  In part two of this series, we’ll take a look at where to spend this loot.  (Yes, I see you TJ Ward.) 


Here’s the official franchise and transition numbers:

Franchise tags

  • Quarterback: $16.192 million
  • Running back: $9.54 million
  • Wide receiver: $12.312 million
  • Tight end: $7.035 million
  • Offensive lineman: $11.654 million
  • Defensive end: $13.116 million
  • Defensive tackle: $9.654 million
  • Linebacker: $11.455 million
  • Cornerback: $11.834 million
  • Safety: $8.433 million
  • Kicker/punter: $3.556 million


Transition tags

  • Quarterback: $14.666 million
  • Running back: $8.033 million
  • Wide receiver: $10.176 million
  • Tight end: $6.106 million
  • Offensive lineman: $10.039 million
  • Defensive end: $10.633 million
  • Defensive tackle: $8.060 million
  • Linebacker: $9.754 million
  • Cornerback: $10.081 million
  • Safety: $7.253 million
  • Kicker/punter: $3.205 million.



  1. And, point of personal privilege, let’s stop  the forward-looking cap projections at year 2015 because we might be speaking Russian in 2016.  I kid, I kid,, just pointing that it’s simply crazy talk for a Browns fan to entertain “positioning our cap structure responsibly for 2018” talk as reasonable.  Fuck that.  My goal here is win this year, win next year.   We’re all in accord on the folly of sensible deferred gratification with respect to our football team by now are we not? [back]
  2. and 2015 [back]
  3. Link to the Google Spreadsheet here.  Not sure I love the ‘new’ Google Docs.  Definitely not thrilled with my embedding technology but it’ll do for now. [back]
  4. Seems a lot for Hoyer doesn’t it?  Ask yourself what you’ll have to pay him after the Browns go 10-6 and win a playoff game.  We’re playing poker here; we’re better going all in to close this deal.  (IMO.) [back]
  • kdog3

    Boy thanks for the info (not!). I did not know the Browns were the only team in the league that had to worry about and plan for these issues. Botttom line, other teams spend money and other teams win games!

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  • ChuckKoz

    thanks jim, great info

  • bupalos

    Did you sign our incoming rookies? I haven’t checked out that link yet but if you are somehow coming to a conclusion that we can actually go spend 39MM in the FA market for 2014, the only way that’s possible is by pushing big dollars into out years in a very Dallas Cowboys way that I think is a terrible idea. That’s how you get into huge dead money overhangs.

    • i did not, good catch, although that those signings figure to be within the 10M fudge factor applied.

  • actovegin1armstrong

    I am not always terribly enamored with T J Ward’s coverage skills. He plays hard and I like the guy, but he is not a perennial pro bowler. Phil Taylor was not a solid first round pick. He is a serviceable, but not great player, letting him go is not a big issue.

    • bupalos

      Agree on Ward. He’s solid and a good tackler and pays attention. He’s not all-around great.

      As the defense played worse and worse as the year went on and Horton seemed to come more and more to the idea that Ward and (!?!) Gipson were transcendent pro-bowl type players, it changed my opinion of no one but Horton.

      I like Taylor somewhat better than that. He seemed to have a lot to do with our excellent run defense, he seems to move the line pretty well. Maybe not a world-beater either, but I’d say he’s straight up a more valuable player than Ward.

      • actovegin1armstrong

        As usual, I am sure you are correct, but it is perhaps a bit easier to find a combination fireplug, tank and tackle in the middle than it is to find a guy who can cover.
        Also, with the increased number of plays per game becoming very popular, quantity may soon rival quality at DT or NG.

    • i like taylor in own right but when i layer on a comparison to my pick that year (carimi), he becomes a homerun (for me).

  • zarathustra

    Now to circle back to previous discussions:)
    One of your ongoing criticisms last year was that they were planning on getting rid of Rubin. I very much like him and believe he’s a very important piece of the defense, but with his current cap number and expected future cap number it makes some sense to plan on a future without him as you have yourself done here.
    Also, if we add the trent richardson contact to the mix dollars are even tighter–although again we do have allocate another first round salary in its place. And if had andy levitre, Keenan Lewis etc to the equation and we are maybe looking at a pretty ugly situation in a couple years with a team that is just finally starting to turn around so we would be talking about cutting players rather than finding the missing piece of a super bowl run.
    The approach that was taken last year may not have been the correct approach, but it was not as indefensible as some on these here interwebs presented it.

    • right. ok.

      so on the sheard and rubin issues, banner got us into a box since expensive resources are on board to do their jobs. i know rubin and bryant make great bookend 5tech DEs and the case could be made that you gotta get mingo on the field, thus sheard is the odd man out. i’m open to that. my first pass was simply, sheard’s younger so he stays and rubin goes. (realistically there’s small chance that bryant or mingo are leaving anytime soon.)

      btw, the t-rich (and DQ) dead money is factored into all this, both for this year and 2015.

      to the levitre/lewis stuff i say we’d be two plugged holes closer to the playoffs this year.

      “.. not as indefensible as some on these here interwebs presented it.” hmm, who might you be referring to here..? 😀

    • Petefranklin

      Not indefensible? All right then, defend Krugers signing and the switch to a 3-4. Hopefully he can be cut at minimal cost down the road. All his contract does is raise what Sheard and Taylor are going to be looking for in an extension. What did he do on the field that makes him more valuable than Rubin?
      That switch to a 3-4 really set this team backwards a few years. I’m not a big fan of DQ, but he may still be a Brown without the switch while Kruger and Mingos roster spots could have been replaced by a FA guard and say Oglethorpe. It was pretty much a blown off season IMO. Banner pounded his square pegs into round holes that he created himself.

  • zarathustra

    This is incredibly well done. There are a couple variables missing however. Next offseason in addition to the free agents you listed there will also be a josh gordon extension to consider–$$$. Also, to a lesser extent, you need to allocate dollars for future draft picks. Either way, you have done a great job adding color to this subject. Dollars are a bit tighter than it may appear on the surface.

    • why thank you,,, just hope it’s well-caveated that it’s all swag*. i really did just give each of tier one guys a 10M signing bonus and bumped their base to the numbers in the “Tier 1 UFAs” section. the 10M is prorated (split) over four years so basically the salary cap hit this year 2M per man (instead of the whole new salary delta).

      in terms of go forward, i actually think dollars will be less tight than projected. they’re saying 140M for 2015 cap.. but i’ll bet it’ll be higher, more like 150M.


      • bupalos

        I’m not sure about thinking about cap inflation as providing any value, especially for teams that are under, because it just mirrors salary inflation and in fact it works against a buyer’s market. We’d be much better off this year if the cap had stayed the same.

        • if you did your 2013 projections with the 2014 cap at 128M and it comes in at 133M that’s 5M in found cap money. that’s all i’m saying.

  • mgbode

    if anyone wants to play with how to extend our young players and see how it will affect future cap holds:

    Warning: you will not be productive at work today if you click on that link.

    • i dont suppose you cracked the code on how to save your work have you? i wound up copy/pasting the raw html into that google doc but it’d be very nice to be able to save and go back and refine say the guaranteed portion on cameron over alter the go forward base salary on haden.. that sort of thing.

      • mgbode

        no. I ran into the same issues.

    • actovegin1armstrong

      “Warning: you will not be productive at work today if you click on that link.”
      Why should today be any different?
      I follow a very successful career plan, the less I do, the less I do incorrectly.

  • I should point out that I’m not necessarily saying that the ‘tier 1’ guys must be signed before playing in this year’s free agent game. But I am saying the gamesmanship undertaken (while holding ample cap space) by the last regime led to the peculiar $10+M spend on our center.

    • bupalos

      I don’t think it was gamesmanship. I think LomBan were planning to say goodbye to Mack. From a cap-first perspective (and that’s where banner comes from) you don’t pay big dough for a center ever. Philly just patched whatever was laying around into that position, Fraley… Jackson….no names or even mid round draftees that I recall. I’m pretty sure we were going to see Grecco there before Farmer got full control.

      • indeed it would be nice to know what the plan was (if any) for the monies saved to allowing a top5 o-lineman at his position to leave in his prime. but it seems safe to say creating a dominating, line-of-scrimmage-owning, identity-creating, tone-imposing o-line was not part of it.

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