Cleveland Browns clear nearly $36 million in cap space: 4 ideal big-name targets in free agency

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On Monday, the Cleveland Browns were able to open up a massive sum of cap space that should allow them to be very active in 2023 NFL free agency.

Last spring, the Cleveland Browns made one of the biggest moves of the offseason when they traded for embattled Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson and gave him a massive five-year, $230 million contract that was fully guaranteed.

Beyond frustrating rival owners with the guarantee, the deal made the 27-year-old one of the highest-paid QBs in the sport and his $46 million annual average was set to hamper their payroll heading into the 2023 offseason. Well, that changed in a major way hours before the start of the legal tampering period in NFL free agency.

Related: Bold predictions for 2023 NFL free agency – Destinations for over 50 top players

On Monday morning, NFL Network league insider Ian Rapoport revealed that the Cleveland Browns and Watson had come to terms on a restructured contract for next season that would free up nearly $36 million in cap space. Allowing the team to make some notable moves on the free-agent market this week.

With a large sum of money to work with, we take a look at four former Pro Bowlers the Cleveland Browns could target in the coming days on the NFL free agent market.

JuJu Smith-Schuster

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Amari Cooper was solid as the Browns’ WR1 in 2022. However, he is not an elite talent at the position and Cleveland needs to get Watson more weapons in the passing game. Unfortunately, the wide receiver market isn’t stacked with superstar talents this month. Nevertheless, a member of the Kansas City Chiefs championship-winning offense, Juju Smith-Schuster, is available.

Smith-Schuster had a very sound 78 catch and a 933-yard showing for Kansas City last season. The one-time Pro Bowler still has a great deal of upside at just 26-years-old, and would not come at an obscene cost. Furthermore, a Smith-Schuster and Cooper combo could be highly productive for Cleveland in 2023.

Tremaine Edmunds

After five very productive seasons and two Pro-Bowl appearances, Tremaine Edmunds is unlikely to return to the Buffalo Bills and will be one of the very best linebackers in NFL free agency. The linebacker position was arguably the weakest spot for the Cleveland Browns’ defense last season, and Edmunds — coming off five straight 100-plus tackles years — would be a massive addition and give them the defensive anchor they badly need in the middle.

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Odell Beckham Jr.

While an Odell Beckham Jr. and Browns reunion should seem absurd, it isn’t completely out of the question. If he is fully healthy after a second ACL surgery earlier this year, Beckham Jr. is the best wide receiver on the open market. And as mentioned above, Cleveland really needs more weapons for Watson to sling the ball to in 2023.

If the Browns are willing to pay the three-time Pro Bowler the $20 million per year he reportedly wants, he will likely welcome a return to Ohio to exercise the demons of his previous tenure.

Lavonte David

Veteran Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David has far more tread on the tire than Edmunds, but at 33 he is still a seriously productive player. His 124 tackle showing in 2022 proved that.

While there is risk in that he won’t be a long-term answer at linebacker for the team, the pros of adding him are the addition of a championship-winning talent who can lead by example on the field and then where it is really needed in the locker room.

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