The Cleveland Browns have been hard at work freeing up as much cap space as possible. Andrew Berry is reworking just about everyone's contracts, and that's given the Browns the most cap space in the NFL by a big margin.
This isn't just a luxury, though — we need it. Most of this space will be rolled over to 2024, when Deshaun Watson's cap hit goes from $19 million to a massive $63 million. Berry isn't just freeing up this space for fun.
But Watson's not the only Cleveland player we need to worry about. Berry knows we have a few more key upcoming free agents over the next couple of years who will need new deals themselves. He'll need to be proactive in getting those deals done so he can continue getting creative with contract structures to absorb Watson's hit.
Here are some Browns that need to be extended this season.
Browns Who Need Contract Extensions
1. Za'Darius Smith
It became crystal clear in Week 1 that Cleveland's offseason moves have finally unlocked the potential of this defense.
Jim Schwartz's outstanding scheming has played a big role, but this is also the first time we've had enough talent around Myles Garrett to truly bring out the best in everyone.
Za'Darius Smith is a key piece of that. Smith is a top-10 pass-rusher in the NFL in his own right, and having him rushing opposite (or alongside, with how creatively Schwartz is using them) Garrett is absolutely unblockable.
Defense is going to continue to be at the core of the Browns' identity, and there's no better place to start a defense than with the pass rush in the modern NFL.
Smith's contract technically extends into 2024, but that’s a void year, meaning we'll need to extend him by the start of the 2024 league year.