In order to avoid having to restructure contracts and potentially extend players, the Cleveland Browns have fully embraced the brand new trend of manipulating the salary cap through the use of void years, which is enabling teams to spend over their salary cap limit by borrowing from future years.
The concept of a void year is taking a player’s signing bonus and spreading it between two and four years, which is the limit, even when the player may only be on the team for one.
For example, if a player signs a $10 million signing bonus and the team includes four void years, the bonus will be spread out over five years, at $2 million per season. The player is perfectly happy because he’s getting all of that money regardless, but the team has to account for it over those years.
So in that respect, it works exactly like a credit card. Borrowing cap space from a future year to pay for something now.
For teams that haven’t adequately planned for their spending in those future years, this becomes a massive weight on their salary cap. This could end up hitting the New Orleans Saints like a ton of bricks next year, despite the fact they have already lost seven of eight contributing players this offseason.
The Browns, meanwhile, appear poised to offset their void years by planning maintain enough salary cap space to create rollover cap. Whatever a team does not spend in a given year is rolled over into the next season. The same process that has enabled the Browns to create and continually expand their salary cap capability for years should once again enable them to take full advantage of void years.
The Browns have an estimated $10.3 million in salary cap space available after signing Jadeveon Clowney. They still have to draft and sign their rookie class, which will lower that number if they don’t restructure any contracts, but for the sake of argument, pretend they do nothing else the rest of the offseason.
They roll over the $10.3 million in 2022, creating another $10.3 million of space, albeit, temporary space. Between Clowney, Malik Jackson and Anthony Walker, the Browns will need to pay off $6.657 million in 2022. Just the rollover cap would cover that and still leave them with a little over $3.643 million to use at their discretion.
Keeping this as basic as possible, the current salary cap is $182.5 million. Heading to 2022, the Browns would pay off the $6.657 million, but with the $10.3 million of rollover, then have an adjusted cap figure of $192.8 million cap figure next season. That would leave the Browns with $186.143 million to operate, still above the normal constraints of the cap.
That’s before including however much the salary cap will increase next season.
Even though they are using some of that expanded space to pay off the credit card of the 2021 season, the benefit of being able to have the larger budget overall is worth it. If they then go a year where they use far less on the credit card and are able to create rollover cap space, they end up with more money to operate with overall.
The Browns, or really any team, have to avoid the temptation to run up the credit card every year or it will catch up with them. With the massive boost in league revenue, the salary cap is going to sky rocket. It’s just a question of when. It may not happen in 2022, but it could happen in 2023 and 2024.
Andrew Berry has to be careful, which he has been thus far into his tenure, but if done properly, the use of credit could ultimately enable the Browns a nice boost in cap space down the road and expand the team’s ability to compete for the Super Bowl by a year or two.
Keep an eye on the amount of cap space the Browns have to rollover at the end of the year. That number has been central to their cap managing strategy dating back to when Sashi Brown was the Executive Vice President of the team.