INDIANAPOLIS -- The Browns declined to use the franchise tag on any of their players before Wednesday's 4 p.m. deadline but are committed to the ongoing negotiations with one of their top upcoming free agents.
Cleveland executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown said he's spoken personally with wide receiver Terrelle Pryor on a handful of occasions throughout the offseason, and so has coach Hue Jackson. Brown said he expects to meet with Pryor's representation throughout the week as the NFL world converges on Indianapolis for its annual scouting combine.
"I think we'd like to have Terrelle back and that's a priority for us," Brown said. "That said, we're not going to panic if he's not back, also. But he's a good player, works hard, we think he fits in our system, had a lot of success with our coaches, so we think this is a great place for him to continue his career."
Free agency opens March 9. Teams can meet with representation of prospective free agents outside of their own starting Tuesday.
Pryor, in his first full season as a wide receiver, led the Browns in all of the major categories, including catches (77), yards (1,007) and touchdowns (four). He was outspoken throughout the season about believing in the direction of the franchise under Brown and Jackson.
"I appreciated his remarks with the press about wanting to stay in Cleveland, and then it's on us in this process here to try to make sure we can exhaust all options to make that happen," Brown said. "We want to have him here long-term as opposed to kind of a one-year temporary option. I think through my conversations he understands we value him a lot."
The Browns have not used the franchise tag on any of their players since 2012, when they placed it on kicker Phil Dawson for a second consecutive season. Seven players around the league received the franchise tag before Wednesday's deadline, including Pittsburgh running back Le'Veon Bell and Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins.
The Browns aren't discounting the time between Wednesday's deadline and the opening of free agency when it comes to the work they're putting in to keep Pryor in Cleveland.
"We're going to be in communication with his representatives throughout the process here," Brown said. "We've got meetings set up with them and we'll absolutely make a concerted effort if we can find some middle ground to keep him here long-term."