Most four-win teams don’t have to worry much about whether to use the franchise tag, because they’re four-win teams. But the Browns are a four-win franchise with a pair of candidates for the franchise tag.
In his introductory press conference, new G.M. Ray Farmer was asked whether the tag may be used on center Alex Mack or safety T.J. Ward.
“We’ve taken the opportunity to really look at all of the models and opportunities that we have to retain players,” Farmer said. “I don’t think right now is the right time for me to talk about what negotiations may be going on or where we’re at with anyone in specific, but I will tell you we’ll do everything in our power to make sure we have the right players for this football team moving forward.”
As pointed out in our team-by-team look at who could be tagged, the labor deal lumps all offensive linemen into the same category, which means that Mack would be paid like an elite left tackle. Which would blow the lid off the market for centers.
That makes Ward the more likely candidate for the franchise tag, regardless of whether an acceptable long-term contract can be negotiated with Mack.
It’s the first of many challenges Farmer will face as he takes over a team with five Pro Bowlers, $40 million in cap space, 10 draft picks, and three selections in the first 35.