In his latest “Hey Tony!” column for ESPN Cleveland, Browns beat writer Tony Grossi says that he’s “getting a sense” that the team may be using the franchise tag on strong safety TJ Ward.
Ward and (coincidentally) Buffalo’s Jairus Byrd highlight the potential free-agent safety market. The hard-hitting Browns safety graded out as a top-three safety by Pro Football Focus over 2013 and was the site’s No. 1 safety in terms of stopping the run.
Ward, while keeping a relatively low profile with regard to his contract this season, has the support of his teammates—spefically fellow Pro Bowl defensive back Joe Haden.
“I’m going to do what I’ve got to do,” said Haden before the end of the 2013 regular season. “If there’s anything I can do to keep T.J. here, I’d do anything in my power for sure.”
Ward joins Alex Mack as potential franchise tag suitors, but the impending free agent center would cost the average in all offensive linemen as a part of the compensation calculation, meaning that top-end left tackles would skew the tag cost upward.
“I’m really happy here,” Mack tells Tom Reed of the Cleveland Plain Dealer back in August. “I’ve had great success with [offensive line coach George Warhop] and being with Joe Thomas and this offensive line is what I want. I think I’m a good player and that’s really what my goal was to be.”
Regarding Pro Football Focus, Mack graded out as the fourth-best center in the NFL, excelling in run blocking and a lack of penalties being attributed to his No. 55.
[Related: The Strong Safety]
(Image via Candice Vlcek/WFNY)