Why Browns won't use the franchise tag this year

Tashaun Gipson is a solid NFL safety, but he isn't worth $10.8 million per season. George Gojkovich/Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns are not likely to use the franchise or transition tag on any of their players for one simple reason: Economics.

Put another way, the Browns had to decide if their three main free agents were worth making the highest-paid or among the highest-paid players at their positions.

That's what would have happen if the Browns use the tag on free safety Tashaun Gipson, tackle Mitchell Schwartz or receiver Travis Benjamin.

The franchise value for a safety is $10.8 million. The highest paid free safety in the league in terms of average per year is Seattle's Earl Thomas at $10 million, with Devin McCourty of New England at $9.5 million, according to Spotrac.com.

Though Gipson is a very good player, his 2015 season did not match 2014. The team obviously believes it's hard to justify him being the highest-paid player at his position.

The same applies to right tackle, where the franchise figure for Schwartz is $13.706 million. The highest paid right tackle in the league is Philadelphia's Lane Johnson at $11.25 million per season. The franchise figure even dwarfs the highest-paid left tackle, Dallas' Tyron Smith at $12.2 million.

Schwartz is among the league's best right tackles, but the question the team had to answer was this one: Is Schwartz worth being made the highest-paid lineman in the league, and worth $4 million more than Joe Thomas will be paid in salary and bonus?

The receiver franchise cost is $14.599 million — which would put Benjamin ahead of Julio Jones, Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas -- and close to A.J. Green.

Even the transition tag figures are prohibitive — Benjamin would be $12.268 million, Schwartz $11.902 million and Gipson $9.116 million.

Giving all three the transition tag, which is lower in cost than the franchise tag, would account for $33 million of the salary cap — almost all the team's remaining space.

As for center Alex Mack, he has it in his contract that he cannot be tagged. He has a March 4 deadline to inform the team if he is opting out of the final three years of his contract.

Franchise tag aside, it would still behoove the Browns to work out new contracts with these four players before free agency begins. Deals could be structured to minimize the initial salary cap hit and keep good players on the roster. The team might have to go beyond what it thinks the market should pay, but the rise in the salary cap the last three years means all teams have to go beyond at one time or another.

A 3-13 team does not help itself by losing the good players it has.

Negotiations have not progressed significantly from one week ago, though, so the Browns have just more than a week to keep these players off the market, where it only takes one team's big offer to create a new hole on the Browns' roster.