CLEVELAND — With the unofficial start of free agency just hours away, the Cleveland Browns have found some much needed salary cap relief. According to multiple reports, the Browns and quarterback Deshaun Watson have agreed to a contract restructure, in a move that will save Cleveland $36 million in salary cap space.
The Browns' restructuring of Watson's deal, in which his 2023 base salary will be converted into a signing bonus and spread among the remaining three years of his contract, was largely an expected move and came just hours ahead of the start of the NFL's "legal tampering" period in which teams are permitted to negotiate with free agents beginning at 12 p.m. ET on Monday. The move comes nearly one year after Cleveland famously signed Watson to a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract -- the largest fully guaranteed deal in NFL history.
Prior to restructuring Watson's contract, the Browns were approximately $14 million over the salary cap -- a number they would have to clear ahead of the official start of the NFL's new league year on Wednesday. According to OverTheCap.com, Cleveland now has approximately $21.88 million in salary cap space, although smaller deals such as cornerback A.J. Green's one-year contract have yet to be factored in.
Heading into the start of free agency, the Browns figure to be one of the league's more active teams, as they look to bounce back from a disappointing 2022 season in which they amassed a 7-10 record. After serving an 11-game suspension for violations of the league's Personal Conduct Policy stemming from multiple accusations of sexual misconduct, Watson completed 58.2 percent of his passes for 1,102 yards, seven touchdowns and five interceptions, adding 175 yards and a touchdown on 36 attempts.