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How will Browns handle Tashaun Gipson's restricted free agency?

3/7/2015

The Cleveland Browns face a free agency decision with ascending 24-year-old safety Tashaun Gipson, one they haven’t yet make public.

Giving the restricted free agent a high tender is the easy part.

Whether that’s a first- or second-round tender seems to be the hard part.

They must decide this by Monday. Many teams across the league already have tendered their players. The Browns must decide to designate one of three tenders -- first round, second round or low (no compensation) on Gipson, linebacker Craig Robertson and defensive tackle Ishmaa'ily Kitchen. The team on Friday announced it's keeping exclusive rights free agent Shaun Draughn.

Gipson's deal shouldn't be overly difficult. After nine interceptions in his last 14 games dating back to late 2013, the most in the NFL during that span, a first-round tender of $3.347 million makes sense.

But issuing a second-round tender -- which would pay Gipson roughly $2.356 million -- wouldn't surprise, either. The Browns must know teams don't often give up that high a pick for the rights to make a deal with a safety. Gipson's a good player, so perhaps he can change that precedent. And Gipson won't exactly be thrilled with a second-round designation, considering his rise from undrafted player out of Wyoming to Pro Bowler. He'd likely shop around.

Generally, the Browns would feel protected with the second-round pick.

The second-level tender would send the message the Browns are trying to save small-change money while dealing with an accomplished player. NFL teams are known to do the minimum required in these cases, as long as all interests are protected.

Now, the Browns could always try to cut a deal with Gipson outright. That's still on the table.

Either way, Gipson's free agency should be one of the team's easiest decisions. He's got range and good blitzing ability to accompany his ability to create turnovers. He consistently gets good breaks on intermediate-to-deep balls. Pro Football Focus ranked Gipson its fourth-best coverage safety of 2014.