ESPN Cleveland’s Tony Grossi reports this morning that the Cleveland Browns “have decided to pursue” free agents Alex Mack and T.J. Ward.
“New Browns GM Ray Farmer and coach Mike Pettine have decided to pursue re-signing Pro Bowl center Alex Mack, according to a source familiar with their decision.
The team also is making an effort to re-sign Pro Bowl safety T.J. Ward.”
Under CEO Joe Banner, there was little confidence that center Alex Mack would be retained. Banner’s track record was not paying a premium salary on non-premium positions. (You can argue center to be a premium position all you want, but Banner didn’t consider it one.)
It wasn’t clear what Ray Farmer’s thoughts were on Mack and Ward’s status until this piece of news. When asked about Ward and Mack at his introductory press conference, Farmer was non-committal about trying to resign the pair or using the franchise tag.
“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.”
Today coincidentally, is the first day that teams can apply the franchise player designations. If the Browns are going to have to use the franchise tag to keep one of these free agents, they would rather do it with T.J. Ward, as it would cost the team $3 million less to tag Ward than Mack.