The Cleveland Browns were looking for a difference-maker wide receiver before the trade deadline, but may have to part with one in the offseason.
Amari Cooper has been the team’s best option in the passing game the last two years, but just barely Reached salary cap of $24 million in 2024 could be more than Cleveland can fit into a budget already stretched to the limit with Deshaun Watson’s full guarantee $230 million contract.
ESPN’s Dan Graziano predicted on Friday, Nov. 3, that the Browns will cut or trade Cooper next summer to save up to $20 million next season.
“[Cooper’s] The deal runs until 2024, but not beyond that [his] “$20 million in salary in 2024 is guaranteed,” Graziano wrote. “The Browns restructured the deal when they got it in March 2022, meaning they have a little dead money when they terminate it next spring. But they would also save $12.5 million on next year’s cap if they cut or traded him, and they would save 20 million dollars if they cut him after June 1st.”
Browns can afford to keep Amari Cooper by extending him
The idea behind cutting or trading Cooper is to replace him with another upper echelon wideout. However, there are none of these in Cleveland at the moment.
Therefore, the Browns may decide that extending Cooper would be a better plan. That way, the team can convert a significant portion of the wide receiver’s money into bonuses and get some of the bigger hits for years to come.
“Could they make Cooper take away his captaincy number and keep him? Secure. He was a very good player for them – he was 12th in receiving last season 1,160 meters, and he has 478 in seven games this season – and there is no reason other than money and age to even think about it,” Graziano wrote. “But when you’re paying your quarterback $46 million a season fully guaranteed and can barely get him on the field, you’re going to have to deal with tough decisions elsewhere on your roster. The Browns plan to be close to the cap in 2024 and there is no turning away from Deshaun Watson.”
“Browns may pursue replacement for Amari Cooper in free agency”
If the Browns decide that Cooper will cost too much or that his age (29) makes him too much of a risk to invest in long-term, they can always cut or trade him and apply the same cap logic to the Apply to sign a free agent next spring.
The 2024 free agency class looks strong at wide receiver, with players like Calvin Ridley of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Mike Evans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tee Higgins of the Cincinnati Bengals all set to hit the open market in March. The list of available players can and likely will change to some extent as teams add to their playmakers over the next few months.
However, there will inevitably be some high-profile names coming onto the market, and the Browns will likely pursue at least one of them if they decide to part ways with Cooper. The team traded Donovan Peoples-Jones to the Detroit Lions earlier this week for a 2025 sixth-round draft pick, leaving Elijah Moore and rookie Cedric Tillman as the No. 2 and 3 wideouts on Cleveland’s depth chart.
Max Dible covers the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns and Golden State Warriors for Heavy.com. He covered local and national news as a reporter for West Hawaii Today and served as news director for BigIslandNow.com and Pacific Media Group’s family of Big Island radio stations before joining Heavy. More about Max Dible
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