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Cleveland Browns place transition tag on Alex Mack

Posted Mar 3, 2014

The Cleveland Browns have placed a transition tag on center Alex Mack before the NFL’s deadline of 4 p.m. ET Monday to tag players who are due to become unrestricted free agents.

The Browns placed the transition tag on Center Alex Mack on Monday.

The Cleveland Browns have placed a transition tag on center Alex Mack before the NFL’s deadline of 4 p.m. ET Monday to tag players who are due to become unrestricted free agents.

The transition tag, which is seldom used, means that if -- when the league's free-agency and trading period begins at 4 p.m. ET on March 11 -- Mack receives a contract offer from another club, the Browns have five days to match the offer if they want to retain him. If the Browns don’t match, Mack would depart and the Browns would receive no compensation.

If Mack doesn’t receive a contract offer from another team and the Browns are unable to come to terms with him on a long-term deal, they are obligated to give him a one-year guaranteed contract equal to the average salary of the top 10 centers in the league (about $10.3 million, roughly $1.5 million less than under the more commonly used franchise tag).

Given that the Browns reportedly have upwards of more than $40 million in salary cap space, they are comfortable with effectively allowing the open market set Mack’s value, presuming another team makes him an offer that the Browns choose to match to keep him. Transition tags once were viewed as risky after some teams made offers that contained so-called “poison pills” designed to make it financially prohibitive for the player’s original club to match. The NFL has since devised rules to eliminate the tactic.

The tag also figures to give Mack a genuine opportunity to find out what he would be worth elsewhere.

As with any NFL team, the Browns had the right to apply either a franchise tag or transition tag on pending unrestricted free agents, but they were not allowed to use both. Therefore, safety T.J. Ward, who also is due to become an unrestricted free agent, is likely to hit the open market, unless the Browns are able to sign him to a contract by March 11.

There are two levels of franchise tag: Exclusive and non-exclusive.

Exclusive means that the player cannot negotiate with any other NFL team. If he fails to reach an agreement on a long-term deal with his original club, he is due to receive a one-year contract for an amount no less than the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position.

Non-exclusive means that the player is allowed to negotiate with other teams. If he receives an offer, his original club has seven days to match. If it doesn’t, it is entitled two first-round draft picks from the club that made the offer. If the player doesn’t receive an offer and is unable to reach an agreement on a long-term deal with his original team, he would receive a guaranteed one-year contract worth no less than the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position.

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