Browns assign transition tag to Alex Mack; TJ Ward to hit free agent market



Apparently, those meetings we heard about did not provide much in the way of success regarding a long-term contract extension with Alex Mack. In a bit of a surprise move, the Cleveland Browns have decided to place the transition tag on the Pro Bowl center.

Rarely used, this tag amounts to a one-year, $10.039 million tender. Aside from the much higher salary, the transition tag essentially functions as the lowest restricted free agent tender, giving the Browns the right of first refusal. The big difference: The Browns will have five days to match if Mack signs an offer sheet elsewhere, but would receive nothing in the way of compensation if he walks where as a franchise tag would have garnered at least something in the way of two first-round draft picks.

The transition tag for centers is roughly $1.5 million cheaper than the franchise tag, but a $10 million is still be a huge total for a center if he does not get an offer that forces the Browns’ hand. The Browns can continue to negotiate with Mack in the meantime, opting to lift the tag at any point if they so choose.

This move, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, will place safety TJ Ward on the free agent market. The Buffalo Bills reportedly remain interested in working out a deal with safety Jarius Byrd, but they did not use any of their tags on the 27-year-old Pro Bowl free safety. The Browns, after this move, have roughly $47 million in cap space.

Image via Scott Sargent/WFNY

  • Harv 21

    Don’t quite get not franchising him, unless 1) Pettine and Farmer have reason to believe they’ll outbid everyone and sign Byrd, or 2) They think Ward’s market value will be substantially less than he thinks and they still plan to try and re-sign him (seems doubtful), or 3) They’re just not that into Ward if they think they’re about to grab Byrd.

    But if they get neither one a pretty thin secondary just got a whole lot thinner.

  • BenRM

    I wonder if they really think they have a shot at Byrd.

  • mgbode

    agreed, better sign either Ward or Byrd. not sure why we didn’t hear about them negotiating with TJ during this time too.

  • MrCleaveland

    I’m starting to get nervous.

  • CityOfSadness

    Great. Our team sucks, let’s just get rid of what little talent we have!

  • RGB

    This makes no sense to me.
    Where’s Kanicki?

  • maxfnmloans

    Im still trying to figure how this all plays into the longview. Conceivably, we could lose Mack, and Ward and not sign Byrd. On the other hand, we could still sign Mack long term and replace TJ Ward with a better player (although, even though they both play safety, they don’t play the same position. Maybe Pettine thinks Gipson can be a servicable run support guy?)

    Anyhow, at this point, it seems like a high stakes game of chicken. Why even risk losing Mack to some other team making a “Godfather” offer, just to save 1 million? I’m guessing (and hoping) they did it because they feel like they’re close to a deal with him. I think 10 mil a year is too much for a Center, but I also think losing Mack could be quite detrimental.

  • CB Everett

    So does this finally kill the long-standing narrative that Mack really wants to be here, and Banner was the one standing in the way from him signing a long term deal? Too soon?

  • RGB

    I hope we haven’t replaced Lombanner with another Underpants Gnome. :/

  • Balrog

    Cleveland doesn’t like debbie downers.

  • mgbode

    I think it is a mere dampen the market on Mack move. Noone is going to talk to him the first week of free agency now (as he’d hold up their cap room – well, I guess Oakland or Jax could). That means he very well could get frustrated/nervous and come closer to the terms that they have set. Or, eventually find a suitable deal and we can come to terms and match.

    The poison pill is the worry. While egregious ones like games played in Minnesota to sign away a Viking player have been outlawed, there is still certainly some strange language that can be inserted to make a deal less palatable to the Browns and we are risking being forced into such a deal.

  • Sam

    This is a smart move as it shows they are committed to signing Mack to a long term deal at the best possible price. If any teams make offers to Mack, they won’t touch the 11+ million it would have cost to franchise him. Worse case scenario is the Browns match an offer at about 10 million per year and save the 1+ million it would have taken to tag him.

  • maxfnmloans

    or…the 49ers could talk to him on the first week of free agency, come to a verbal agreement, wait for the Browns to use up their cap space, and then we wont have the ability to match. Because this is Cleveland and I’ve never heard of anything like that ever happening before, I’m totally prepared for it.

  • mgbode

    wait for the Browns to use up their cap space

    first, that would be impressive. like eating the whole cheese wheel and pooping in the fridge impressive.

    second, the Browns cap space contains a $10mil cap-hold for Mack until we either rescind the tag or sign Mack to a deal. So, the NFL will not allow us to use all our cap space without room for Mack (unless we decide to rescind).

  • maxfnmloans

    I’ve been beaten into cynicism over the years, it’s going to be a while before I’m not automatically looking for ways things can get fouled up

  • mgbode
  • TomWFNY

    Reminder: after the last CBA, the Poison Pill is, if not outlawed, at least strongly weakened (see, e.g.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Why? I feel like part of Mack’s discussion was that he doesn’t want to feel like he’s giving up money to stay in Cleveland so this way he’s not. No reason to use franchise tag because they’re definitely matching, but didn’t want to end up over paying by a ton in case other teams avoided making offers figuring it wasn’t worth it. This way they lock him up long term and everyone’s happy.

    Ward either they figure they’ll resign anyway or there are other options available.

  • Natedawg86

    So wikipedia says that transition tags are not good for player because it dampens the market on him. Are we just using this on him in spite? Will he be willing to sign long term in CLE after this?

  • BenRM

    You can only use 1 tag….

  • BenRM

    While I certainly don’t think Banner helped the situation, I agree that, like Dawson before him, Mack isn’t really interested in being a Brown.