The Browns had a great 2020 offseason and even though they’re now saddled with some underachieving players, a repeat in 2021 is totally feasible.
The biggest movers in the 2020 offseason were arguably the Browns, who threw out big deals to Case Keenum, Jack Conklin, and Austin Hooper. With some tinkering, the Browns can not only improve their squad through free agency, address a majority of their needs, but can also do it for a difference of just $1 million.
The Browns have the possibility of walking away from this offseason with another great crop of talent. That’s what we’re going to do here, take a look at how the Browns can acquire the pieces they need, while not killing their cap in the future and addressing some pretty glaring issues.
To make the numbers work, here are some things that need to happen. Firstly, the Browns need to either cut or re-structure Sheldon Richardson’s outlandish contract. He’s making just a hair under $12 million and no one should think he’s worth even a third of that anymore. Either he takes $4 million all guaranteed, or you cut him and save $12 million.
The other thing is trading Case Keenum after June 1, 2021. Doing so will save the Browns $6 million this year. That’s $18 million total, which can be added to the Browns 2021 cap, bringing the number up to $40 million. There’s going to a team like Jacksonville or the Jets who would like to have Keenum on the roster just in case their rookies go belly up.
Now some of you will begin the whole “well what about 20XX…” and listen, the Browns have Jarvis Landry on the books for 2022 at $15 million. That’s never going to happen, he’ll either restructure or get moved and save the team $15 million (but eat about $1 million in dead cap penalties). J.C. Tretter is also aging, and unless he restructures, could be off the team in a year or two, and Conklin, as good as he is, only has two years left on his deal. Not for nothing, I would argue that Austin Hooper doesn’t take the field in 2023 as a Brown. Plus Adrian Clayborn, Andrew Billings, and David Njoku come off after this year, so that’s about $13 million just between those three names.
There’s plenty of space available as the years go by. It’s about replacing players who price themselves out of the future of the team. Ideally, you’d replace Tretter pretty high in the 2022 draft and most of the rest are subsequently replaced by cheaper, lower round picks. The only name you bring back from the above list at his current, or near his current deal, is Conklin.
Money is fluid in the NFL, as are contracts. There are always ways of creating cap room so if you’re going to sit in the comments and go “BUT WHAT ABOUT NEXT…” just stop. There will be money for Nick Chubb and Baker Mayfield when it’s time.
For this exercise, We’re going to operate as if we’ve cleared Keenum and Richardson’s bad deals from the books for 2021.