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Top 5 Cleveland Browns on the Cutting Block After the Super Bowl
With the NFL playoffs heading into their final stage, teams like the Cleveland Browns have had their eyes on the offseason for weeks (in the Browns case months). As the fans focus on a head coach search, free agency and prospects available in the 2014 NFL Draft, many have forgotten the team has a few decisions to make once the games are all done for this season.
Despite being well under the salary cap heading into next season, Joe Banner and the Cleveland Browns front office will likely be making big decisions in regard to a few guys on their roster. Whether it is for performance, salary or off-the-field issues, there will probably be a few guys who saw a lot of action in 2013 who will not be on the roster for the 2014 season.
These players could be big name starters that will drive you to call out the front office on Twitter, or they could be aging veterans who have young players pushing them for playing time. We may differ on who could be gone—so feel free to let me know what you think—but here are the five players I think could get the axe after the Super Bowl.
5. Davone Bess
This is probably the most obvious cut that will occur this offseason. After being touted as a reliable slot wide receiver when they team acquired him during the 2013 NFL Draft, Bess was a major disappointment in his first season in Cleveland. If that wasn’t enough, Bess left the team due to personal reasons and has spent the last few weeks in turmoil after posting multiple pictures on Instagram in which it looked like he was using marijuana in them.
The only obstacle in cutting ties with Bess this offseason will be the contract extension given to him last year, as he was guaranteed $5.7 million of his $8.8 million contract. He earned $2.6 million of that guarantee last season, so the team still owes him roughly $3.1 million (his 2014 salary) if they cut him. At this point, the $3.1 million hit will likely be worth it for the team to rid themselves of his issues.
4. Brandon Weeden
It is a common assumption that the Weeden era is over in Cleveland after just two seasons, which is why his inclusion on this list is no shock to you. The former first-round pick has been a disappointment from his playing days at Oklahoma State, as he has never truly adjusted to the speed of the NFL game and the complex reads necessary to be a successful NFL quarterback.
With all of this in mind, there is a chance Weeden may not be cut—and it is because of his contract. His rookie contract guaranteed him $7.5 million over four seasons, which was spread out between his base salary and signing bonus. What this means is that cutting Weeden will not actually save the Browns much money (around $500,000 off his 2015 salary if my math is correct), so it will purely be a move to get him off the roster and move on.
3. Jason Campbell
Unlike Weeden, Campbell actually enjoyed some success as a quarterback in 2013. However, winning one game doesn’t guarantee the veteran will be back in Cleveland—especially since his contract will accelerate thanks to his playing time.
With Brian Hoyer expected to be in the mix with a rookie quarterback from the 2014 NFL Draft, it makes more sense for the Browns to part ways with Campbell at this time. The rookie and Hoyer will likely compete for the starting job, and teams generally don’t keep 32-year old veterans who make more than $2 million a season on as their third string quarterback.
2. Ahtyba Rubin
Rubin is seemingly in this conversation every season, but it could finally be time for the Browns to cut ties with the 27-year old since he will be a free agent following the 2014 season. Playing in 14 games in 2013, Rubin racked up 52 tackles and two sacks while rotating in and out with Phil Taylor, Desmond Bryant and the rest of the young guys on the line. Those two sacks were matched by backup Billy Winn, while backup John Hughes also chipped in one sack.
With two young guys proving to be more than able to fill in, the Browns will probably go ahead and make a move to give themselves an extra $6.6 million in base salary and the $300,000 workout bonus he is owed for the 2014 season. It may be idea to try to move him in a trade, but that would mean keeping him on the roster until March when trades are open again.
1. D’Qwell Jackson
The heart and soul of the Browns defense for years, cutting Jackson would cause more outrage in Cleveland than not keeping Josh Cribbs and Phil Dawson combined. Jackson finished No. 7 in the NFL with 141 tackles, stretching his streak of 100-plus tackle seasons to three in a row. He has rebounded from injuries which cost him half of 2009 and all of 2010 to become a leader in the middle of this defense.
So why would the Browns consider cutting him? It’s all about the money, specifically the $4 million roster bonus he is due for the 2014 season. Between that and his base salary, Jackson is scheduled to make $8 million (outside of his recurring signing bonus payment) in 2014. Cutting him would save the Browns around $23 million the next three seasons combined. At 30-years old his salary numbers are not overwhelming in comparison to his production, but if the team is looking to get younger in the middle you can’t rule out the possibility that No. 52 could play somewhere else for the first time in his NFL career in 2014.
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