What does $181 million buy? Browns top NFL in offseason guaranteed money

Myles Garrett will receive $20.7 million in cash this year but only costs $5.5 million against the 2017 cap. Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns haven't just talked about improving their team since January.

They've put their money where their mouth is.

When it comes to cash spending in the offseason and through the 2017 season, no NFL team has or will match the Browns' lavish spending, and only one will hand out more cash.

Yet the Browns still have more than $50 million in salary-cap space, which is an interesting thing. A losing team that doesn't use its cap space is "cheap," but a building team that reserves cash space is deftly handling its finances.

Results on the field finalize the perception, but there is no questioning the Browns were willing to spend to improve from January through today.

According to the sports salary site spotrac.com, the Browns rank second in the league in cash commitments for 2017 -- with $205.6 million spent or set to be spent.

Spotrac also reports that when it comes to guaranteed money given out this offseason, no team was more active than the Browns, whose total of $181 million in guarantees is $45 million more than the Dolphins.

The Browns committed to $76.2 million via contract extensions (to LB Christian Kirksey, G Joel Bitonio, P Britton Colquitt, LS Charley Hughlett and LB Jamie Collins, who technically had not reached free agency when he re-signed), $44.5 million to draft picks and $60.58 million to free agents, according to Spotrac.

That's a hefty financial commitment.

The 10 highest cash payments to Browns players this season will go to:

  1. DE Myles Garrett, $20.7 million

  2. G Kevin Zeitler, $18 million

  3. QB Brock Osweiler, $16 million

  4. LB Collins, $15.85 million

  5. G Bitonio, $11.66 million

  6. LT Joe Thomas, $11.5 million

  7. CB Joe Haden, $11.2 million

  8. WR Kenny Britt, $10.5 million

  9. LB Kirksey, $9.79 million

  10. C JC Tretter, $6.6 million

Eight of the 10 players were drafted, acquired in free agency or acquired in a trade by current management. Only Thomas and Haden had contracts from previous regimes.

How can a team spend so freely yet still have so much salary-cap room? In NFL accounting, signing bonuses are prorated over the life of the contact for salary-cap purposes. So Zeitler's $12 million signing bonus is prorated over five years and counts $2.4 million under the cap.

However, the $12 million in cash is spent immediately, so that's money out of pocket, as is Zeitler's $6 million salary for 2017. The Browns will pay Garrett $20.7 million in cash in 2017, but his salary-cap cost is $5.5 million due to prorated bonuses.

The Browns' willingness to commit $205 million in cash speaks to using money for a building team.

Their ability to keep salary cap room speaks to future ability to add talent, with a hefty chunk of it no doubt earmarked to that elusive franchise quarterback.