Q: The Browns have had the most cap space in the NFL the past three years. Why? The majority of teams have $10 million or less in cap space while we have almost $60 million. Whether that money is used to re-sign our own players or to sign free agents, we have to be at a disadvantage. If we assume the Browns now have their franchise quarterback in Baker Mayfield, do you see us starting to spend next year and getting under $10 million in cap space next year like most other teams? I hope we take advantage of Mayfield’s affordable rookie contract and begin spending like a team that wants to win now.
— Austin Boyle
A: The Browns have had an abundance of salary cap space for years, and the chief reasons are: no quarterback worthy of big money and not enough good players to reward with large contracts. The other key ingredient for the last two years was former head of football operations Sashi Brown’s rebuilding plan. He declined to pay players eligible for free agency — right tackle Mitchell Schwartz and free safety Tashaun Gipson top the list — and stockpiled the cap space as he looked too far down the road.
New general manager Tyrod Taylor started to shift the philosophy in the offseason. He traded for quarterback Tyrod Taylor and his $16 million contract and traded for receiver Jarvis Landry, then signed him to a five-year, $75.5 million deal. He also signed free agents Chris Hubbard, Carlos Hyde, TJ Carrie, Terrance Mitchell and E.J. Gaines, and signed running back Duke Johnson to an extension.
Your Mayfield point is important. With the starting quarterback under the rookie wage scale, the Browns should maximize their extra room under the cap by adding talent across the roster. I would expect Dorsey to do this, especially if the Browns look like they’re ready to contend for the playoffs next season.
Q: Now that Baker Mayfield is starting and Jimmy Garoppolo tore his ACL, do we call the 49ers up and say we will ship Tyrod Taylor there for a third-round draft pick?
— Justin Nalley
A: It can’t hurt to ask, and I would quickly make that deal if I were GM John Dorsey, but I don’t think the 49ers have any interest in making that move.
First of all, reports out of San Francisco indicate the Niners won’t make a major move to add a replacement quarterback. That’s wise for a team not expected to contend for the Super Bowl. And even if they wanted Taylor to come in and start, they wouldn’t give up a third-round pick.
I believe Taylor has value to the Browns, because quarterbacks get hurt and he’s a better option than Drew Stanton if Baker Mayfield were to miss time. Therefore, I wouldn’t trade Taylor for anything lower than a fourth-round pick, even though a deal would save the Browns more than $500,000 a week. If Dorsey really wants to recoup a draft pick — he sent No. 65 in 2018 to Buffalo for Taylor — it would take a serious playoff contender losing its quarterback to have a chance.
Q: Evidently, I had been mistaken to understand that an NFL team’s No. 3 QB is exempt from the 46-man player limit on game days, even if inactive. It had been my understanding that third guy could be gone to in the event of injury, though neither of the first two could return unless that No. 3 himself got hurt.
This is wondered because Tyrod Taylor left in concussion protocol, yet Drew Stanton did not suit up during halftime. Is this a rule change of recent vintage? What is the rule? Who’d have played QB had Baker Mayfield been injured? The NFL, aware of the importance of the position and the advisability of being conscientious about the injured, should surely assure each team is provided at least three QB options each week. In fact, I’ve long advocated for the league to mandate each organization carries four QBs — one on the practice squad — so as to both assure protection and to encourage responsible development at the key spot. Your thoughts, please.
— Mark Leonard
A: The rule change was made in 2011. I believe research showed a third quarterback was seldom needed within a game, therefore the emergency exception was unnecessary. A consequence of the change is fewer teams keep a third quarterback on their 53-man roster.
Coach Hue Jackson said receiver Jarvis Landry would’ve been the emergency quarterback against the Jets if Mayfield had gotten hurt. Landry’s left arm looked good on the 2-point conversion to Mayfield, but I wouldn’t trust him to do much more.
To your overall point, I always liked the old rule, because quarterbacks get hurt and it would be a shame to have to finish a game without a real quarterback. However, I believe some teams, like the Patriots, would rather have the extra roster spot for the whole season.
Q: After seeing Dez Bryant’s post regarding signing with a team “Soon,” do you think he is talking @Browns now that Baker Mayfield is starting?
A: I don’t trust anything I read from Bryant, so I’m not ready to make that leap.
I know John Dorsey was still open to signing Bryant, for the right price, heading into Week 1. But if he was going to make a big push for the aging receiver, it would’ve come after trading Josh Gordon. Instead, Dorsey signed journeyman Rod Streater. He seems content to ride it out with Landry and the young receivers.
Q: How did tight end David Njoku and kicker Greg Joseph look in practice??
A: First of all, reporters are only allowed to watch about a half-hour of practice three days a week. Secondly, the kickers work inside during that time.
But here’s the insight I can provide. Njoku looks in practice like he looks in games. He makes some great catches and drops some easy ones. The hope is his consistency improves with Baker Mayfield at quarterback.
As for Joseph, the organization loves his big leg but he’s on a short leash. A bad miss could cost him the job.