Browns pursuing their pair of Pro Bowl free agents

TJWard6ESPN 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.

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  • JHop

    No reason why any of these guys shouldn’t be back – especially with the $40 million in cap space the Browns have.

    Highest paid center in the NFL (Scott Wells of STL) made $5.5 million. Give Mack $6-7 million per year and call it a day.

    Eric Berry and Scott Weddle made $8.5 million and $7.5 million. Ward probably deserves an annual amount just below there’s ($7 million?).

    None of these will break the bank. Not like the team has to handicap its flexibility with a massive Joe Flacco-esque deal.

  • MrCleaveland

    Okay, this is good news. Let’s get ‘er done.

    More established teams might be able to afford losing Pro Bowlers, but we ain’t dat.

  • Harv 21

    I like the strategy of contract for Mack, franchise tag for Ward.

    Ward has improved, but last season was his only healthy one, and he was banged up some in college too. If he’s hurt again next season it would make ’13 the healthy outlier year and should give them pause about whether he’s too risky for a big long-term cap hit.

  • Dawgz

    I think this situation with Mack and Ward played a huge role in Banner’s dismissal. I bet Haslam really wanted both back, (he’ll spend the money to get both back, just watch) whereas Banner didn’t plan on resigning either. Haslam decided 2 pro bowlers were more valuable than a unique GM.

    I bet Haslam is going to meddle a lot with personnel decisions. But in this situation, I’d much rather have Mack and Ward than Banner.

  • Harv 21

    “Haslam decided 2 pro bowlers were more valuable than a unique GM.”

    Salty. I like it.

  • Kildawg

    I think both stay. Ward is the hard hitting SS that can run into a pick 6, which should impress Pettine (he got to see it firsthand last year). As for Mack, he is smart and agile enough to excel in Shanahan’s zone blocking scheme; and is regarded as a top 5 center. I say use Banner’s method of contracts (players get paid but don’t strain the cap too much, hurray for front-loaded bonuses!)

  • RGB

    Well, well, would ya look at that.
    You watching this Jimmy?
    Go get ’em Ray!

  • CTownPride

    I think Ryan Kalil is going to be a better starting point than Scott Wells… http://overthecap.com/top-player-salaries.php?Position=C