Recent Cleveland Browns transactions (and non-transaction)
In the window of time before free agency begins, a couple of decisions were made regarding players on the Browns’ roster. Each spring, an NFL franchise could apply a tag – either a franchise or transition – on a pending free agent. The difference is the former comes with a higher (one-year) salary, an ability to recoup draft selections should another team sign away the athlete, and an obstacle for other franchises to set the player’s market price. The opposite is true for the transition tag, a tool utilized for the first time ever by the Cleveland Browns.
Placing the transition tag on center Alex Mack:
This definitely came out of left field, as many outside of the organization believed Mack would either get re-signed or signed by another team. The positives for doing this are saving roughly $1.6 million (as opposed to the franchise tag tender) as well as the Browns can now match any competing offer; which will likely not be an egregious amount. However, there is a concern as this move is likely for 2014 only. It’s beginning to feel like Mack will not be here long-term, whether he becomes too expensive or simply wants to play elsewhere. I anticipate the Browns will take a center in the upcoming draft (like a Travis Swanson or Weston Richburg) and possibly plug him in at guard and transition him to the middle in 2015. Browns fans should be a little leery of the transition tag, but there is no reason to not hope the front office can solidify the center spot for years to come (regardless of the athlete).
Not placing a franchise tag on T.J. Ward:
Another somewhat intriguing decision by general manager Ray Farmer was to not place a tag on Ward. Safety is a position that comes with one of the lowest franchise tag tenders, so it’s expected that teams would likely use it with athletes at that spot – provided a multi-year deal is not agreed upon. Currently, that’s the case between the Browns and the former Oregon star. I feel Ward’s fourth season really increased his value (and would argue that he is somewhat over-valued), so there’s a good possibility he played his last home game at First Energy Stadium. The team wants an athlete stout against the pass; i.e. Jairus Byrd. Will the Browns sign the free agent safety of the Buffalo Bills, to replace Ward? His salary could be rather hefty and the team will be in competition with other franchises, so that might not occur. Assuming it does not, look for a Jimmie Ward, Deone Bucannon, or a Lamarcus Joyner to be drafted in May to compete with Tashaun Gipson. Should Ward leave, the team has solid options to replace the veteran.
Releasing Davone Bess:
Disappointing does not even begin to describe the type of season the wide receiver had after being traded from the Miami Dolphins. Bess had multiple drops (fourteen in total), a critical muff of a punt in Kansas City, and did not finish the 2013 campaign due to troubling mental issues. Granted, the team may still owe his 2014 guaranteed salary of just over three million dollars (although they will seek to recoup that amount). However, this is still an extremely smart move as the Browns have ample money under the salary cap and can wipe their hands clean from this failed experiment. Another wide receiver will be chosen to complement Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron; I like a replacement (realistically, an upgrade) taken with the twenty-sixth or thirty-fifth spot in the draft. This was a no-brainer decision and I hope Bess gets the help he needs going forward.