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March 3, 2014 - Mike McLain
CLEVELAND -- The Browns decided Monday to start digging into some the immense salary-cap space they've accumulated by placing the transition-tag designation on center Alex Mack.
The tag means Mack is all but tied to the team for the 2014 season. It also means he'll receive the average of the top 10 salaries for offensive linemen in the NFL -- a whopping $10.039 million. He will be eligible for free agency next year.
Mack instantly becomes the second-highest paid player on the roster, trailing only offensive tackle Joe Thomas. Thomas has a base salary of $10.9 million next season and a $12.3 million hit against the salary cap of $110,686,000. Mack didn't receive a signing bonus, which means his cap hit is the entire amount of his base salary.
Following Mack on the salary list is outside linebacker Paul Kruger, who has a $7.0 million base salary for 2014. Kruger's cap hit is $8.2 million.
The Browns are making a huge commitment to an important position, but is it too much. Mack has developed into a consistent player -- he's yet to miss a game since being selected in the first round of the 2011 draft -- and he's appeared in two Pro Bowls. Considering that the Browns are about $47 million below the cap, it's probably not wasteful spending.
The Browns can't place a similar tag on safety T.J. Ward, which means he's likely headed elsewhere if he's not signed by early next week.
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