The Browns top four linebackers are now free to pursue new teams via free agency.
The team today officially released outside linebacker Jamir Miller and middle linebacker Earl Holmes in order to get under the $75 million salary cap by the Friday deadline.
Miller's release has been anticipated for weeks, ever since it was revealed that the team negotiated a $14 million roster bonus with Miller. The bonus was impossible to pay given the Browns cap situation, and Miller's release has been inevitable unless a new contract was signed.
The team and Miller have a significant difference in his perceived value, and the team hopes that Miller's contract demands will fall as he exposed to the free agent market. Miller suffered a season-ending achilles tear in an exhibition game against the Vikings last year, and the Browns are concerned about making a large investment in a player coming off of that particular injury.
Miller was originally signed by the Browns in 1999, after several years with the Arizona Cardinals. After an excellent campaign in that year, Miller was signed to a four-year extension which would have run through 2003 if he was not released.
Holmes signed a five-year contract with the Browns prior to the 2002 season, although the contract was structured such that Holmes was a low-risk investment for the team. Unless the contract is renegotiated, Holmes was a relatively effective one-year rental for the Browns.
Although Holmes didn't perform that the level the team had hoped for, his play improved as the year went on, and many felt that the team would retain his services. Holmes was owed a $1 million roster bonus payable on March 1, which likely led to his being cut. Even after yesterday's release of three veterans, the Browns still needed to trim additional payroll in order to be under the salary cap by Friday.
Both Miller and Holmes will count against the 2003 salary cap to some extent, however. The remainder of Millers $6 million signing bonus will apply against the cap, and will cost slightly over $1 million to the team. Four-fifths of Holmes $2 million signing bonus will accelerate to 2003, however, and will represent a cost of $1.6 million against the salary cap.