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Cleveland Browns money trail shows premium on DBs, OLs

3/27/2015

One of the best ways to crystallize a general manager’s priorities is through his spending. Where teams invest the most money can help illustrate where they believe games will be won or lost. Yes, some numbers can be skewed (many franchise cornerstones are still on cheap rookie deals, for example).

For the Browns, however, it’s become clear Ray Farmer and coach Mike Pettine believe the defensive backfield and offensive line are the two money positions. The signing of cornerback Tramon Williams to a deal worth roughly $7 million per season affirms that position. The Browns have one of the league’s best (and highest-paid) corners in Joe Haden and several promising young corners but still targeted Williams, a productive and durable corner who just turned 32.

Many teams invest heavily in corner and offensive line, but not many do so as aggressively as Cleveland.

Consider:

  • Cleveland is one of three NFL teams paying more than one cornerback an average of $7 million a year. The Jets have Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, with Buster Skrine close behind in the $6.25-million range, and the Broncos have the Aqib Talib-Chris Harris combo.

  • The Browns and Seahawks are the only NFL teams paying three defensive backs an average of $7 million or more per year. The Browns signed Donte Whitner to a four-year, $ 28-million contract last offseason.

  • The Browns dedicate 26.6 percent ($35.42 million) of the current payroll of $137.6 million to the defensive backfield, according to ESPN’s Roster Management System.

  • The Browns dedicate 45.6 percent ($62.71 million) of their payroll to defensive backs and offensive linemen.

  • The Browns are one of two teams paying both a left tackle (Joe Thomas) and a center (Alex Mack) at least $8 million a year. The Jets do the same with tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson and center Nick Mangold.

  • The Browns owe 42.3 percent of their 2015 money to seven players, including signing-bonus proration – CB Haden ($11.7 million), OT Thomas ($10.2 million), LB Paul Kruger ($8.2 million), C Mack ($8 million), DE Desmond Bryant ($7 million), S Whitner ($6.75 million), CB Williams ($6.5 million). Five of those players are on defense.

  • The Browns’ highest-paid skill player in 2015 (Andrew Hawkins, $5 million) ranks 10th on the team.

The addition of Dwayne Bowe (due roughly $4.5 million after proration) tilts the overall receiver number to $16.17 million, or 11.7 percent of the team’s 2015 salary pool. But Farmer hasn’t exactly dispelled the notion that he doesn’t place a premium on skill players. The team’s quarterbacks, running backs, wideouts and tight ends combine for $28.42 million, or 20.6 percent.