The Cleveland Browns searched for a difference-making wide receiver ahead of the trade deadline but may need to part with one come the off season.
Amari Cooper has been the team’s best option in the passing game for the last two years, but a nearly $24 million salary cap hit in 2024 might be more than Cleveland can fit into a budget already stretched to the limit by Deshaun Watson’s fully-guaranteed $230 million contract.
Dan Graziano of ESPN on Friday, November 3, predicted that the Browns will cut or trade Cooper next summer in the name of saving up to $20 million next season.
“[Cooper’s] deal runs through 2024, though none of [his] $20 million salary in 2024 is guaranteed,” Graziano wrote. “The Browns restructured the deal when they got him in March 2022, which means they have a little bit of dead money if they cut him next spring. But they’d also save $12.5 million on next year’s cap if they cut or trade him, and they’d save $20 million if they made him a post-June 1 cut.”
Browns Can Afford to Keep Amari Cooper by Extending Him.
Behind the thought of cutting or trading Cooper resides the notion of replacing him with another upper-echelon wideout. At the moment, however, Cleveland doesn’t have one of those.
As such, the Browns may decide the better plan is to extend Cooper. Doing so will allow the team to convert a considerable amount of the wide receiver’s money into bonus form and push some of the larger cap hits years down the line.
“Could they extend Cooper to knock his cap number down and keep him? Sure. He has been a very good player for them — he was 12th in receiving last season with 1,160 yards, and he has 478 in seven games this season — and there’s no reason other than money and age to even think about it,” Graziano wrote. “But when you’re paying your quarterback $46 million per season fully guaranteed and can barely get him on the field, you end up having to confront some tough choices elsewhere on your roster. The Browns project to be tight to the cap in 2024, and there’s no moving on from Deshaun Watson.”