Cleveland Browns: 3 Players Who Could Be Cut After Karlos Dansby

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When rumors of inside linebacker Demario Davis visiting the Cleveland Browns on Tuesday leaked, discussions brewed on social media about the future of Karlos Dansby in Cleveland. Well, the new Browns front office wasted no time answering those discussions—as hours after signing Davis on Wednesday, Dansby was cut according to Adam Schefter.

For those of you wondering why Dansby was released from a team in dire need of veterans after losing Alex Mack, Mitchell Schwartz, Travis Benjamin and Tashaun Gipson this offseason, look no further than analytics. No, I am not telling you to be mad at the analytical approach of the Browns, just offering an answer to the question you are likely asking right now.

In his two years with the Browns, Dansby played his heart out and left everything on the field. He recorded 100-plus tackles, had four interceptions with two touchdown returns, forced three fumbles and embodied everything you want for an inside linebacker in your 3-4 defense. Unfortunately for Dansby, there are likely only two numbers that mattered to the front office right now—34 and 13.

The first number, 34, is in reference to Dansby’s current age. For a team heading for a full rebuild, you are usually looking for younger players to grow with your system. The second number, 13, is in reference to Dansby’s total cap hit for the next two seasons. Owed $5 million in base salary each year and $1.5 million each season toward his signing bonus, Danby’s total contract value the next two years would have been $13 million. Instead, the Browns now only suffer a cap hit of $3 million for the 2016 season ($1.5 million from the signing bonus multiplied by two). The cap savings for 2016 are $3.5 million, not that the Browns really needed the money.

Dansby will certainly be missed in the middle of the Browns defense, but he was a piece added to a team that thought they were a few pieces away from making a playoff push in the 2014 season. After a 3-13 2015 season and a new coaching staff and front office, things change—which makes me wonder who will be next to go for the Browns?

Taking a look at the team’s contracts on Spotrac, three names stand out as possibilities to go next.

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Donte Whitner

Whitner's homecoming could be over soon.
Whitner’s homecoming could be over soon.

Brought in at the same time as Dansby, Whitner seems very likely to be the next to go. Decline in play aside, Whitner turns 31-years old before the season starts and is under contract for two more years—just like Dansby.

Whitner’s contract for 2016 is $6.2 million in base with a $2.25 million cap hit for his signing bonus, so the overall cap hit for 2016 is $8.45 million. For 2017, Whitner’s base is $6.3 million with a cap hit of $2.25 million again for his signing bonus. If the Browns were to release Whitner this season, they would only have the cap hit up $4.5 million for the signing bonus on the books—freeing up $3.95 million more for the 2016 season and taking his $6.3 million off the books for 2017.

Though Whitner is a few years younger than Dansby and from the Cleveland area, he is blocking the team’s ability to get younger at the safety position. Ibraheim Campbell looked capable of competing for the starting job at that position during his rookie year, is only 23-years old and is in year two of a four-year deal worth $2.79 million.

To put it simple, Whitner should be on the lookout for a call from the front office.

Paul Kruger

New defensive coordinator Ray Horton was here back when Kruger was signed in 2013, which gives him a chance to stick around. However, when you look at the age (30-years old), money owned ($13.5 million in base and $2.4 million in cap hit for signing bonus) the next two seasons and lack of production in terms of sacks (just 2.5 in 2015 after 11 in 2014), he certainly becomes a candidate.

In terms of cap savings, Kruger has just $2.4 million in dead money owed to him total over the next two seasons, so cutting him this year would save the team $5.3 million in 2016 and another $7 million for his base salary in 2017. These numbers combined with the fact Kruger is not exactly a speed rusher for a 3-4 defense which is going to want to get after the quarterback, and let’s just say Kruger could be out the door soon.

Tramon Williams

At 33-years old, Williams was an excellent contributor to the Browns last season and would honestly be welcomed back by fans this year. However, his contract makes him a cut candidate this season. Williams originally signed a three-year deal worth $21 million before the 2015 season.

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Of that deal, $10 million was guaranteed—which included a $1.5 million signing bonus. Williams received $3.7 million in base salary in 2015, as well as a $2.3 million roster bonus for the 2015 season. Attributing one-third of his signing bonus to last season, Williams accrued $6.5 million of his $10 million guaranteed. Adding in the remaining $1 million in cap hit for his signing bonus, which would mean the Browns only owe Williams $2.5 million more in guaranteed money for the rest of his contract.

Looking at Spotrac, Williams has a base salary of $6.2 million in 2016 with a $281,250 roster bonus and a base of $5.7 million with a $1.3 million roster bonus in 2013. So, if Williams is cut prior to the season, it looks like the team would save just over $3.1 million in 2016—along with removing his base and that roster bonus off 2017.

Cutting Williams certainly fits the mold with what the Browns are currently doing, and also opens up playing time for youngsters like Pierre Desir and Justin Gilbert, if the team decides to hold on to him.

Bonus: Dwayne Bowe (Reportedly Being Cut on Wednesday)

This one will be short and sweet. Bowe stole money from the Cleveland Browns last season (boy was I wrong on what he could add to the team). He signed a two-year deal worth $12.5 million with $9 million guaranteed total in the deal. Of that $9 million, Bowe was paid a $3.5 million signing bonus, his $2.65 million 2015 base salary and $2.85 million of his 2016 base salary was guaranteed.

Bowe’s total base for 2016 was $6.15 million and the team had to apply $1.75 million of his signing bonus toward the cap, as well as a $100,000 workout bonus. So, Bowe’s cap hit for 2016 could have been $8 million, instead the Browns will pay him $2.85 million of his base plus $1.75 million of his original signing bonus to leave. Overall, the Browns will save $3.4 million by cutting Bowe according to Spotrac.

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Bob is the Founder, Site Director and Senior Writer of Cleveland Sports Zone. He has been writing about sports for over nine years thanks to his passion for Cleveland sports and a Journalism degree. His work has been featured on Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, ESPN, USA Today and other major sports networks.

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