The Cleveland Browns should consider trading away key veterans to try and keep under the gap.
Here’s the reality of the Cleveland Browns’ salary cap issues; they’re going to be over the cap without significant moves and contract reshuffling. They’ll likely cut some guys to save a bit of cash, re-work some other contracts to delay the money counting against them, and probably trade one or two big(ish) names to get out of some more money. These are all going to happen to some degree this offseason.
They’re going to do all that just to free up some money, so they can re-sign some guys who have expiring deals, their 2023 draft picks, and maybe a handful of moderately priced free agents. Without moving someone like Myles Garrett, Nick Chubb, or Amari Cooper, the team, realistically, can’t chase after a lot of big-name free agents.
Not without limiting the competition window even more that is. See, the Browns could sign a few big-name guys, give them $1 million this season, and then in a season or two, see their salaries balloon to $12, or $15, or even $20 million, but all that will do is make sure this current unit has a very short shelf life.
Prior to the arrival of the embattled Deshaun Watson, the Browns were in a position to compete regularly over the course of the next decade if they wanted. They had draft picks, cap space, and a young roster.
Now, the Browns have maybe three years before this whole thing gets blown up. They’ve invested too much money into too few guys and that’s going to limit what they can do now and in a few years. The team is already looking like they’ll be over the cap in 2024, which means more cuts, more trades, and more restructuring, but that only delays the issues.
Whenever you restructure, cut or trade a player (unless they have no more owed money), the team still has to pay them at some point. You can delay that money down the road, but it only impacts future salary caps.
So there’s no way the Browns can keep kicking payments down the road. They’ll eventually handcuff the Browns just like any other bad contract. The Browns need to seriously consider investing in the future by trading away a few key players and seriously stocking up on draft picks.
The Cleveland Browns have got to start prioritizing the long-term viability of this team
The Cleveland Browns, as constructed, are not good enough to win. If the Browns were the Buffalo Bills, nearly there but needed a few parts, you risk a year or two of cap hell and go all in. You have the talent, you have the coach, and you have the team. So go for it.
You may have one down year or so but you’ll eventually be back in the playoffs.
The Browns are not the Bills. This is a team that needs another starting receiver, a backup tight end, a backup running back, three defensive line starters, two starting linebackers, a starting safety, and a third (or fourth) corner.
That’s not even talking about finding an eventual replacement for Jedrick Wills, Joel Bitonio, or Chris Hubbard, nor does it count the fact Ethan Pocic will likely leave in free agency due to a lack of funds being available.
Oh, and the team will once again need a reliable backup quarterback as well.
Those are too many holes on this team to address this offseason alone. They have got to prioritize getting younger, getting cheaper, and filling gaps with draft picks and not free agents. The talks of the Browns being active this offseason with the biggest free agents isn’t feasible, at least not long term.
Yeah, you can probably get one or two guys on some really funky-looking deals, but that will only further compound the cap issues down the road. Trading guys like Chubb and Joel Bitonio make sense if you’re worried about years four and five of Watson’s contract.
If you don’t expect to compete in 2024 or 2025, then don’t worry about it. But the Browns sold their souls for Watson, and the least they could do is give the fans four strong seasons of their best effort to get to the playoffs.
That’ll only work if they invest in younger, more affordable talents, so that way the competition and championship window stays open longer. Otherwise, you have a year, maybe two, before this whole thing more than likely implodes.