As expected, the Browns have restructured the contract of quarterback Deshaun Watson, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport (Twitter link). The move saves Cleveland just under $36MM in cap space, and avoids Watson breaking the NFL record for the highest cap hit in a single season (he was due to count for $54.9MM in 2023).
As was recently noted, the Browns did not require Watson’s permission to convert base salary into signing bonus, though he was reportedly open to the idea. His historic, fully-guaranteed pact signed last offseason upon his acquisition from the Texans was always seen as a financial burden beginning in 2023 due to its structure. While this move thus comes as no surprise (and will, of course, affect his cap hits in future years), it will give Cleveland the spending power needed to make at least one or two notable additions in free agency this week.
Here are some other recent contract restructures, as teams look to carve out much-needed cap space for the coming free agent frenzy:
- Buccaneers receiver Russell Gage took a slight pay cut for this year to remain in Tampa Bay. Per Rapoport (on Twitter), the 27-year-old agreed to lower his salary from $10MM to $7MM – the latter figure now being fully guaranteed – with incentives in place to earn it back. After a slew of recent cost-cutting moves and financial maneuvering, Tampa Bay is now slightly under the cap ceiling in time for the start of the new league year.
- Backup Ravens running back Gus Edwards has been seen by many as a potential cut or trade candidate, as the team looks to add financial wiggle room. He will remain in the fold for the coming season, however. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reports that the 27-year-old has agreed to drop his base salary (set to be $4.4MM) by roughly $1MM (Twitter link). He, too will have the chance to make back that amount and more if he hits the new incentives in place in his deal. Edwards is entering the final year of his contract.
- The Bills will have Nyheim Hines in the backfield at a different cap number than he was originally scheduled for. Rapoport’s colleague Mike Garafolo tweets that Hines is re-working his contract to move part of his base salary into a signing bonus. The midseason trade acquisition was due a base salary of $4.45MM in 2023, and set to carry a cap hit of $4.79MM. Garafolo notes that Hines will have the chance, via incentives, to earn more than the latter figure this season. He is on the books through 2024.