Transition-tag possibilities: none
Player most likely to be franchised: Ward
Likelihood: 75 percent
Mack and Ward have both been productive starters for the Browns since they joined the team, Mack as a first-round pick in 2009, Ward as a second-rounder in 2010.
Neither, though, would be a possibility for the exclusive franchise tag. That would simply be too expensive. (For an explanation of the franchise and transition tags, click here.)
Ward would be a likely candidate for the non-exclusive tag.
That’s because, according to the new collective bargaining agreement, Mack would receive the average salary of the top 10 offensive linemen if he was tagged, not just the top centers. That includes left tackles, which makes tagging Mack a $10 million proposition. A year ago, the franchise-tag cost for an offensive lineman was $9.828 million. That figure will go up this year.
Safety, though, was a relative $6.916 million, a number that will go up this year.
Ward is probably among or close to the top 10 safeties in the league. His franchise cost would be in line with what others make. No team would give up two first-round draft picks for Ward, so if the Browns decide the salary cost is palatable, they could apply the tag and keep Ward with the Browns.
As for centers, only five offensive linemen average $10 million or more per season -- including the Browns' Joe Thomas. Only eight have a salary-cap cost of more than $10 million per season.
Mack is a very good player, but he’s not among the league’s top 10 linemen.
Finances would seem to dictate that if any Browns player receives the franchise tag, it will be Ward, and the chances are probably fairly good it happens.