The "Shutdown Countdown" is underway. In addition to previewing each team, "Shutdown Corner" will be taking a brief look at each team's salary cap situation heading into the 2013 season and beyond. We continue the series with the Cleveland Browns.
2013 Adjusted Cap Number: $137.108 million (fourth-largest adjusted cap number in the NFL)
2013 Cap Room Remaining: $31.74 million (most in the NFL). The Browns still have to sign first-round linebacker Barkevious Mingo and third-round cornerback Leon McFadden, who are projected to have first-year cap numbers totaling $3.544 million. Once those two picks are signed, the Browns will have $29.2 million in cap space entering training camp.
Best Bargain: As noted by Doug Farrar in the "Shutdown Countdown" piece, outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard could emerge as one of the next great edge defenders in the NFL. The 2011 second-round pick out of Pittsburgh has already established himself as a pass-rusher, totaling 15.5 sacks in 32 games, but he is hardly one-dimensional as his run defense statistics were among the best in the league last season, according to the Football Outsiders' game charters. Sheard is a bargain on the cap, as well, earning $837,750 in cash and counting $1.388 million against the Browns' cap this season.
Potential Camp Casualty: With the nearly $30 million under their adjusted cap figure, the Browns do not have to consider the cap when making their roster cuts. One possible casualty is outside linebacker Quentin Groves, a projected backup who is due $715,000 in base salary this season. Groves was arrested for solicitation a few days before the Browns used the sixth overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft on Mingo, who happens to play the same position as Groves.
The Browns could make cornerback Joe Haden's rookie contract a "camp casualty" by signing the 2010 first-round pick to an extension. Haden is due $6.936 million in base salary with a $9.243 million cap charge in 2013 and is scheduled to earn over $14 million in cash over the next two seasons. With ample cap space, the Browns may want to fold some of that in Haden's second deal.
Looming Contract Issue: Center Alex Mack has been everything the Browns could have hoped for when they selected the former Cal standout with the No. 21 pick in the 2009 NFL draft. Mack has started all 64 regular season games over the last four seasons and has yet to miss a single offensive snap, playing in all 4,044 plays, according to official playing-time documents. In his second season, Mack was named as a replacement for Nick Mangold in the Pro Bowl and is scheduled to earn $3.732 million in base salary in the final season of his rookie contract and has earned an extension, which should come in around the $6-$7 million per year range. The tricky part of the negotiations will involved guaranteed money.
In 2011, the Panthers signed franchised center Ryan Kalil to an extension averaging slightly over $8 million per season with $28 million in guaranteed money. However, Mack's camp does not have the benefit of negotiating off a franchise tender and back-to-back Pro Bowl nods that Kalil's agents had. Perhaps a more similar contract to reference is the extension Seattle Seahawks center Max Unger signed on July 26, 2012. Unger was due the league minimum base salary last season, but his four-year extension was worth over $6 million per season with $11.5 million in guaranteed money. Unger rewarded the Seahawks by being named to the Pro Bowl and was a first-team All-Pro. Minnesota Vikings center John Sullivan, also a Pro Bowl/All-Pro caliber player, received $10 million in guaranteed money in his extension, which was signed late in the 2011 regular season.
For those wondering, if the league-wide salary cap number for the 2014 season remains at $123 million, the franchise tag for an offensive lineman is projected to be worth $9.8 million.
Long-Term Cash/Cap Outlook: The Browns currently have $96.3 million in cap commitments for the 2014 season, which is currently the fourth-lowest total in the league. From a cash perspective, the Browns have less than $80 million committed to next season, which is among the five lowest totals in the league. The Browns figure to roll over a significant amount of cap space next season, which should allow them to keep their own key free agents — Mack, Shawn Lauvao, T.J. Ward — and be major players on the free agent market.
Previous salary cap outlooks