My brain is MeLtInG. To the surprise of everyone, the Texans traded Brock Osweiler to the Cleveland Browns. The Texans traded Osweiler, a 2018 second round pick, and a 2017 sixth round pick for Cleveland’s 2017 fourth round pick. Most importantly, Houston gets the albatross that was Osweiler’s contract off from around its neck. Cleveland will be swallowing Osweiler’s deal, which saves $10 million in cap space for Houston this season and $16 million in cash.
Houston now they has roughly $31.5 million in cap space for this season. This allows them to be in the market for Tony Romo, Jay Cutler, or whoever, without having to wriggle around the salary cap. This is really great for the Texans. If they do sign Romo, instead of being stuck paying a broken and unplayable version of him two years from now by backloading his contract, they can pay him more in 2017 to give the team more flexibility for the future. The extra money also allows them to better fill in holes at strong safety, defensive/outside linebacker (depending on where Jadeveon Clowney starts), right tackle, and cornerback to make their team better this year. That factor may be the last thing needed to swoon Romo to Space City.
Most importantly, the Texans got rid of the worst quarterback in the NFL. They can move on with their lives. Now Osweiler won’t wallow on the sideline, or get to play somewhere else while Houston is stuck with a $10-$16 million bill. This was a tremendous deal for a cap-strapped team that needed to get better this offseason
Cleveland now has eight (8!) draft picks in the first two rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft and the 2018 NFL Draft. That’s two firsts and two seconds this year, and one first and three seconds next year. The Browns now have 22 picks in both drafts combined. They took on a $16 million contract that doesn’t practically affect them because of the amount of cap room they have. They’ll probably end up cutting Osweiler. But they could also take Osweiler, pay some of his salary, and flip him to another team that feels that Bill O’Brien’s offense didn’t match Brock’s skills. The Browns just traded $16 million for a second round and maybe another third round pick.
That’s all surface level stuff. What does it all mean? Like the white whale, or that green light at the end of the dock, it means so much more than just cap savings and draft picks. For the league as a whole, this type of trade rarely occurs. We never see salary dumps. The Browns just expanded what a trade can be in the NFL.
The lack of guaranteed contracts in the NFL allow teams to quickly get out of deals after two to three years. This leads to teams quickly turning over their cap space. No one is in salary cap hell forever; it’s just for a season or two. This turnover and the rising salary cap has led to an explosion in cap space. Entering this offseason, Cleveland had $106.5 million in cap space. Jacksonville had $74.9 million. Tennessee had $62.3 million. Washington had $58.8 million. Indianapolis had $54.2 million. Chicago had $51.4 million. Lots of teams had lots of money to spend. Depending on where they are in their competitive life cycle, they may not come close to spending it in one offseason.
So rather than have all this money just sitting around, doing nothing underneath a corroded boat house mattress, or tied up on players a team barely wants, teams can put it to use just like Cleveland did. The Browns just bought a second round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. The Browns bought a high draft pick.
As we’ve learned, the best way to rebuild a team is by accumulating and hitting on as many draft picks as possible. These contracts are cheap and four years long at a minimum. Scouting is a chaotic art form. The best way to get around it is to take as many spins at the wheel as possible to get the next “fill in the blank.” The Browns don’t care about winning this season. They care about finding a quarterback and adding cheap talent. Instead of signing a player for five years and $65 million that they would just cut in two seasons, Cleveland added another cheap lotto ticket and put wasted dollars to work.
Expect more deals like this to happen as the salary cap keeps escalating and players rarely play out their contracts. 2-14 seasons should rarely lead to free agency binge-spending. There’s now no reason to pay exorbitantly for players who won’t be on a franchise’s next contending team. Teams should use their cap space to purchase draft picks by taking on Osweilerian contracts from teams that feel they are competing for that shiny Lombardi Trophy.
It’s funny how one trade can mess the whole game up.