When it comes to NFL bookkeeping, the salary cap receives most of the focus. But a far more important concept within each of 32 organizations is the budget.
Set each year by the people who own the team, the budget determines how much is available to be devoted to paying players, regardless of whether those players are on the team or not — and regardless of whether the salary cap easily allows those transactions.
For the Browns, some see the decision to remove cornerback Joe Haden‘s $11 million from the books as a precursor to paying quarterback Brock Osweiler up to $16 million to not play for the team. Cutting Osweiler, whose salary is fully guaranteed, would be the last step of a process that commenced in March, when the Browns bought a second-round pick from the Texans by taking on Osweiler’s contract.
It’s been believed for months that the Browns eventually would cut Osweiler if they can’t trade him. Barring a freak Bridgewater-style injury over the next week or so, there will be no market for Osweiler. So the Browns may indeed cut him, hopeful that someone else would sign him to a one-year minimum deal of $775,000 and reduce the amount the Browns will eat to $15.225 million.
Dumping Haden’s $11 million salary (with $4 million guaranteed, subject to offset) narrows the net cash consequence of the Osweiler trade to $4.225 million. Coupled with the recent release of defensive linemen Desmond Bryant, the Browns already have cleared the $15.225 million (or $16 million), and then some.