CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Money should not be an issue for the Cleveland Browns when the league’s legal negotiating window opens at noon Tuesday.
According to the NFL Players Association, as of Tuesday morning, the Browns enter the new league year with $104,153,328 in salary cap space, the most room in the league by nearly $14 million. The San Francisco 49ers have $90,635,889 in available space.
Cleveland rolled over $50,123,269 in space from 2016 after slashing their payroll by well over $40 million last season. They finished 2016 with the lowest cash payroll in the league. According to Spotrac.com, Cleveland spent $111.951 million last season. Carolina spent the second-fewest dollars [$126.343 million] and San Francisco the third-fewest [$136.955 million].
Those expecting the Browns to go on a massive free agent shopping spree might be disappointed in the coming days.
“For us, we’re going to look at every opportunity including free agency to upgrade our team,” Browns executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown said last week in Indianapolis at the NFL Combine. “The lifeblood of what we need to be build is essentially [to] have better results in the draft. It will not be exclusive to using picks to trade for players or looking at free agents we feel can add value to us.
“We’ll explore what opportunities are out there March 7-8-9. A lot of that gets dictated by the market.”
Brown’s point: free agent spending does not equal winning.
It does not look like the Browns will retain Terrelle Pryor which will infuriate fans who have grown weary of the constant losing, turmoil and former players going on to greener pastures only to achieve success with other teams.
Pyor, who is represented by Jason and Drew Rosenhaus, had 5 of the Browns’ 28 offensive touchdowns last season while leading the team in receptions  and receiving yardage [1,007] in his first full season at the position. Pryor is about to get a big payday but it likely won’t be by the Browns, despite the team’s desire to keep him.
“We’d like to have Terrelle back and that’s a priority for us,” Brown said. “That said, we’re not going to panic if he’s not back, also. But he’s a good player, works hard, we think he fits in our system, had a lot of success with our coaches, so we think this is a great place for him to
continue his career.”
So who will the Browns spend their money on?
Frankly, they need help everywhere.
“We want to emphasize guys who are kind of entering their primes or in their primes or younger, just because of where we are as we build our roster,” Brown said.
The quarterback market as usual isn’t very appealing with Colin Kaepernick and Ryan Fitzpatrick headlining the available players. Buffalo is expected to release Tyrod Taylor instead of triggering $31 million in guarantees by paying a roster bonus on March 11. Trading for Patriots backup QB Jimmy Garoppolo seems to be the best option in addition to drafting another project.
The Browns are in desperate need of help on the offensive line. Guards Joel Bitonio and John Greco are both recovering from foot injuries that ended their seasons while there are holes at right tackle and center. Bengals guard Kevin Zeitler, 26, and Lions guard Larry Warford, 25, fit the age profile of the type of players the Browns would be more likely to spend on. Eagles center Stefan Wisnewski, who is 27, could be a target at center as well.
With new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams looking to overhaul one of the worst units in the league from last season, don’t look for the Browns to spend heavily on that side of the ball because the draft is loaded with talent. It is presumed Cleveland will select Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett No. 1 overall. The draft is especially deep at safety and corner, 2 areas the Browns will need to shore up.
The Browns have money to burn, but if they spend a lot of it in free agency that’s exactly what they’ll be doing.