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Cleveland Browns Use the Transition Tag on C Alex Mack

What does the seldom-used tag mean, and did the Browns make the right move using it on Alex Mack over T.J. Ward?

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Browns had until 4:00 PM EST on Monday to decide if they were going to use the franchise tag on either C Alex Mack or SS T.J. Ward. Within an hour of the deadline, it was announced that the Browns were using the transition tag on Mack.

We have not covered the transition tag this offseason, so here is an explanation of it:

  • It is similar to the franchise tag, in the sense that you are signing a player to a one-year deal.

  • The franchise tag is an average of the top 5 salaries at the position, while the transition tag is an average of the top 10 salaries at the position. It would have cost $11.654 million to franchise tag Mack, but the transition tag only costs $10.039 million (a savings of $1.615 million).

  • This doesn't mean that Mack is guaranteed to be a Brown. The transition tag will allow Mack to negotiate with other NFL teams. If he signs an offer sheet with another club, the Browns will have five days to match the offer. Because the Browns used the transition tag, if they do not match the offer, they will receive no compensation in draft picks. If it were the franchise tag, the Browns would have received two first-round picks. For the risk Cleveland is taking, it tells me that they are willing to match any offer sheet that Mack signs.

The transition tag is rarely used -- in fact, the last time a team used it was the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2008 on Max Starks, and it is the first time the Browns have ever used the transition tag.

Assuming the transition tag sticks through the entire offseason, then this (for the moment) drops the Browns from $57.45 million in cap space to $47.41 million in cap space.