December 18, 2014

Elyria
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Browns don’t use franchise tag for first time in three years

CLEVELAND — For the first time in three years, the Browns did not apply the franchise tag to kicker Phil Dawson or anyone else on their roster.

The NFL deadline for using the franchise designation was Tuesday at 4 p.m., but Cleveland opted not to exercise it this season.

The Browns’ non-move means all of their impending free agents will be eligible to sign with other teams on March 12, including Dawson and wide receiver Joshua Cribbs.

In 2011 and ’12, the Browns tagged Dawson in order to prevent him from hitting the open market. He received salaries of $3.125 million and $3.8 million, respectively, which were determined by averaging the top five salaries at his position over a five-year period.

League wide, only eight players were franchised before the deadline passed. Cincinnati was the lone AFC North Division team to use its tag, keeping defensive end Michael Johnson for one more year at $11.2 million.

While the Browns didn’t spend any money on players, they did make some financial news by announcing they are not raising season ticket prices for the fifth straight season at First Energy Stadium (formerly Cleveland Browns Stadium).

They also will no longer require the purchase of a permanent seat license with new season ticket purchases, reflecting a clear change in the organization under new owner Jimmy Haslam III.

According to the team, Cleveland’s average ticket price will be the second lowest in the 32-team NFL during the upcoming campaign.

“Our fans have exhibited tremendous loyalty over the years, and we want to continue to reward that loyalty through affordability and by putting a team on the field of which they can be proud,” Browns CEO Joe Banner said. “It was important that we keep the status quo on ticket prices.”

Cleveland’s 2013 home schedule includes matchups against Baltimore, Buffalo, Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit, Jacksonville, Miami, and Pittsburgh. Game dates and times will be announced in early April.

Season tickets for all eight regular-season games and two preseason games start at $190.

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.