The Browns love to brag about having six Pro Bowlers on their roster, but two of those players, center Alex Mack and strong safety T.J. Ward, will become unrestricted free agents at 4 p.m. March 11 unless the organization prevents them from hitting the open market.
So what will be the approach of new General Manager Ray Farmer and new coach Mike Pettine?
The Browns want to re-sign Mack, a league source confirmed for the Beacon Journal on Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the situation. The organization is also believed to be interested in retaining Ward, who has widely been labeled a logical candidate to receive a franchise tag.
Each NFL team has the power to keep a player with an expiring contract from becoming an unrestricted free agent by franchising him. The two-week window in which teams may apply franchise tags opened Monday and will close at 4 p.m. March 3.
Those who are franchised receive a one-year contract worth an average of the five highest-paid salaries among players at their position. The projected amount to franchise Ward, 27, is about $8 million. Franchising Mack, 28, would be less realistic and cost about $11 million because the figure is derived from the salaries of the five highest-paid offensive linemen, including pricey tackles, not just centers.
The NFL Scouting Combine will begin Wednesday in Indianapolis. The combine is best known for showcasing the top college prospects as they participate in drills, but it’s also a quasi-convention in which decision-makers throughout the league usually discuss deals with agents.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.