The Cleveland Browns put together the best season we’ve seen in a long time from this franchise, but they lagged behind in the divisional round against that Kansas City Chiefs. Cleveland ended the season with an 11-5 record in a tie for second place at AFC North, but blew out the division champions Pittsburgh Steelers in the wild card round weekend of the playoffs. Whether the Browns can continue to play consistently in the playoffs largely depends on the personnel decisions.
This will be an important off-season for Cleveland as it looks to capitalize on a prosperous 2020. The Browns start the off-season with plenty of headroom so they may be active in the free agency and re-sign some of the players that got them there.
The NFL pushed its 2020 season amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The league played in most stadiums without fans and in a few places with limited fans. The decrease in gate revenue will result in a decrease in the money shared between the 32 teams. This in turn means that the salary cap is expected to decrease. The NFL and NFLPA agreed on a salary cap of no less than $ 175 million. There is speculation it could end higher, but it will likely still be less than last year’s $ 198.2 million. This will lead to difficult decisions for many teams.
All of the salary cap information below is from Over the cap.
As of January 22, the Browns are expected to have a cap space of $ 21,466,782 for 2021.
Whatever issues need to be resolved, it must start with what happens at the quarterback position. Baker Mayfield has just finished season three and looks like the future quarterback for the Browns. He is projected to only earn $ 920,000 as a base salary in 2021, and he could very well expect a big extension.
The five best Browns tacklers of the season will be freelance agents, including BJ Goodson, Malcolm Smith, Terrance Mitchell, Andrew Sendajo and Karl Joseph. In addition, the defensive tackle against Larry Ogunjobi and primary slot cornerback Kevin Johnson are free agents. Mitchell was the highest paid player in that group in 2020 with a base salary of $ 2.5 million, so this defense could look very different in 2021.
Cleveland did a great job providing Mayfield with enough playmakers to succeed with Jarvis Landry and O’Dell Beckham Jr., but there will be choices that need to be made at the broad receiver position. Rashard Higgins has been a huge part of the Browns’ success this season, but he’s ready to make the choice. Beckham has a base salary of $ 14.5 million in 2021 and Landry is $ 12.5 million. It seems unlikely, but if Cleveland wants to vacate a spot in the position, Landry’s 2021 or 2022 contract is no longer guaranteed, so they wouldn’t be forced to pay it if they decided to cut it.