The Cleveland Browns made great strides in turnover over their offensive line in a short period of a few years not long ago. That transformation, of course, came at a hefty sum, in 2020 seeing them use a high first-round draft pick on a left tackle and paying top dollar for a right tackle in the unrestricted free agency market.
That right tackle would be Jack Conklin, who signed a three-year, $42 million contract, which including $30 million guaranteed—a $9 million signing bonus and his full 2020 and 2021 base salaries. He entered the 2022 season due to make $12 million.
None of that was guaranteed, however, and the Browns were looking for some cap space, so they came to a compromise. In exchange for reducing his salary to $8 million and adding incentives to give him the opportunity to earn back that salary, Cleveland guaranteed his salary for 2022. Reportedly, the incentives are based on playing time.
Conklin suffered a ruptured patella tendon in a late November game against the Baltimore Ravens, which caused him to miss the final five games of the season. Other injuries kept him out of another five games prior to that, limiting him to just seven games played in 2021 (only the second time in his six-year career in which he has missed more than one game in a season).
That left him with just 361 snaps played out of 1,107 on the season for the Browns. According to Field Yates of ESPN, the incentives for playing time kick in at 55 percent of the snaps played and go up to 75 percent, so if he can play at least three quarters of the season in 2022, he can earn back his full salary.
Earlier in the month, Conklin’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told Cleveland.com that his client was doing great with his rehab, which he had been tending in Cleveland, and that he was expected to be on schedule to start the season.
While the Browns may still end up paying him the $12 million he was due, for salary cap purposes, the $4 million would count toward the 2023 salary cap if earned—the nature of Not Likely To Be Earned (NLTBE) incentives. NLTBE incentives. Since Conklin did not play at least 55 percent of the team’s snaps in 2021, his playing time incentives are classified as NLTBE based on the previous season.
With the adjustment to his contract, the Browns create an additional $4 million in salary cap space in 2022, though it could result in their losing up to $4 million against the 2023 salary cap—which would be offset by rolling over the space gained in 2022.
All it does, if Conklin does earn back the full amount, is it allowed the Browns to access that $4 million now. And in turn, the player gets assurances that his fate for this season is secure, and that he has at least $8 million coming to him. Coming off a major injury, I suppose that’s a decent trade-off. And the Browns now have nearly $28 million in projected cap space.