The Cleveland Browns entered the 2022 NFL offseason determined to improve no matter the cost. While they’ve seemingly accomplished their goals on paper, it all came out to a staggering price tag for the organization.
A year after picking up the fifth-year team option on the Baker Mayfield contract, guaranteeing his $18.8 million salary in 2022, Cleveland looked for a different quarterback. Not only did the franchise trade three first-round picks and a pair of Day 2 picks for Deshaun Watson, it also signed him to a record-setting contract.
Watson, now one of the highest paid NFL players, landed an extension worth $230 million guaranteed. A year after sitting out the 2021 season due to his trade demand and 22 civil suits alleging sexual misconduct, Watson made NFL history with his guaranteed contract.
The Browns also acquired wide receiver Amari Cooper, taking on the remainder of his original five-year, $100 million contract. Cleveland restructured the deal to lower his 2022 cap hit ($4.896 million), but he’ll be owed $20 million annually over the next two years.
With a week remaining before the 2022 NFL Draft, the Browns have spent 4340.5 million in guaranteed money this offseason, per Front Office Sports. Putting that in greater perspective, the organization outspent the next closest NFL team by nearly $100 million in guaranteed money.
The Denzel Ward contract also played a huge part in that with the former No. 4 pick landing a new deal to become the highest-paid cornerback in NFL history. Keep in mind, the Browns likely aren’t done spending this offseason with more moves on the horizon.
Cleveland is expected to remain defensive end Jadeveon Clowney this summer and the front office wants to add another impact wide receiver. By the time training camp rolls around, it’s very possible the franchise has spent nearly $360 million guaranteed.
Will the Cleveland Browns spending spree pay off?
Heading into the NFL Draft, the consensus assessment of the Cleveland Browns is that it’s a top-10 team in the NFL. Defensively, the Browns are fairly high in our 2022 NFL defense rankings and the offense could be excellent if everyone is available.
Unfortunately for Cleveland, it picked an inconvenient time to take the all-in approach. The Buffalo Bills are a powerhouse in the AFC, a legitimate Super Bowl contender that added even more talent this offseason. The Los Angeles Chargers overhauled their defense and we’ve seen the Las Vegas Raiders, Denver Broncos and Miami Dolphins make huge improvements.
Things looked more bleak for Cleveland when factoring in a suspension for Watson into the projections. However, the latest developments with his legal matters indicate civil suits might not take place until 2023. If that proves to be correct, the NFL likely won’t suspend him this season.
For now, everything looks great on paper and this is a bonafide Super Bowl contender. History often hasn’t been on Cleveland’s side and if things go wrong, the lack of draft picks and cap space in future years could devastate this franchise after a three-year contention window.