Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland reports that new Browns GM Ray Farmer and coach Mike Pettine have made the decision to pursue a contract extension with impending free agents C Alex Mack and S T.J. Ward.
Grossi adds that if the Browns aren’t able to make progress with either player, the franchise tag is likely to be an option for them. Cleveland will have two weeks to see how far they can get in contract discussions with both players before they would have to take tag one of them.
All things considered, it would make more sense for them to focus on re-signing Mack to a long-term deal and leave the tag as an option for Ward seeing as it would cost them an additional $3.1 million to franchise Mack.
The tag for safeties is expected to run NFL teams close to $8.021 million for the 2014 season.
Mack has played every snap for the Browns since being drafted in the first round in the 2009 NFL Draft. He will undoubtedly be the top center available this offseason, and will likely command something in the vicinity of the league’s highest paid center Ryan Kalil— who signed a six-year, $49.1 million deal in 2011.
That cost may be prohibitive however, considering that Cleveland is projected to have more than $45 million in estimated cap space pursuant to OverTheCap.com.
We have both players listed in our Top 50 Free Agents list.