Organizations that don’t win much, don’t develop many high-end players, and don’t play significantly in the free agency market tend to have a lot of salary cap space available to them. That had been the case for the Cleveland Browns for a number of years, though if they have any intentions of continuing to build a winning team, that will be changing.
Following their decision to place the franchise tag on tight end David Njoku, the Browns only have about $18 million in salary cap space, which is not as much as it may sound, realistically, and will largely be accounted for simply by the predictable future expenses of an NFL season.
One way that they can easily create a significant amount of additional salary cap space is to release wide receiver Jarvis Landry, who is due $15.1 million in 2022, which is the final year of his deal. While he hasn’t necessarily put up gaudy numbers over the past four years since arriving in town, he has been a key figure in their culture change and is a team leader.
“With all of these things, you wait and see how it all plays out”, Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski told reporters at the Combine last week, according to Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon-Journal. “I think you guys know how I feel about Jarvis. I know Jarvis knows how I feel about Jarvis. We’ll see how it all plays out”.
Last month, Landry took to social media to make his position clear, saying that he would like to stay in Cleveland, but that the ball is in the team’s court. Most likely, he would have to agree to some form of contract restructure in order to stay, which, given that he is in the last year of his deal, likely would involve void years, if not a pay cut.
The former Pro Bowler only played in 12 games last season, and played through injury. He put up career lows across the board with just 52 receptions for 570 yards and two touchdowns. His best season in Cleveland was in 2019, catching 83 passes for 1,174 yards and six touchdowns.
The problem with releasing Landry is that they are already hurting for talent at the wide receiver position. Their schism with Odell Beckham Jr. last year that led to his release is ancient history by now, but without Landry, all they have at the moment are Donovan Peoples-Jones, Anthony Schwartz, and Demetric Felton. Rashard Higgins is scheduled to be a free agent.
One way to reduce the cap hit without releasing Landry would be to get a long-term deal done with Njoku. They have already reworked Jack Conklin’s contract to turn some of his salary into incentives. Unfortunately for them, nearly all of Myles Garrett’s 2022 cap hit is from prorated pay.