The Cleveland Browns have made it clear to running back Isaiah Crowell that they want him to stay in Cleveland. The team has informed Crowell and his agents that it will place a second-round tender offer on him when he becomes a restricted free agent.
The Browns also have not changed their position -- that they do not plan to use the franchise tag on receiver Terrelle Pryor. The deadline for that decision is Wednesday.
In both cases, the Browns are trying to avoid the issue that plagued them the past few years: Creating new needs on a bad team by allowing the few talented players to depart as free agents. The team wants to keep Crowell and Pryor, and has signed linebacker Jamie Collins to a new contract.
Crowell can be a restricted free agent on March 9. If he signs with another team, the Browns could match the offer. If they don't, because of the tender they will receive a second-round draft pick in return. The value of the tender has yet to be announced, but the team has notified Crowell and his agent of its plans.
Given Crowell ran for 952 yards and averaged 4.8 yards per carry, the salary figure is not excessive. But because teams are reluctant to use a high draft pick on running backs, the second-round cost will more than likely keep teams from signing him.
Crowell emerged last season. From the first day of camp, he seemed to have a new gear. He showed that during the season as his per-carry average increased by a yard, and his big runs increased. Crowell had 26 runs of 10 yards or more, and on those runs he averaged 21.9 yards per carry. He ranked fifth in the league with eight carries of 20 yards or more.
He did it despite not being asked to carry the ball a lot. He never had a game with 20 carries, and had four when he had less than 10. He also had the fewest rushes all backs in the top 15 in the NFL, and ranked ninth in the league in yards per carry.
Much attention has been paid to the emergence and growth of Pryor as a receiver, but Crowell's emergence was nearly as dramatic. Had Hue Jackson called more runs for him, his numbers could have been among the better backs in the league.
The top 10 backs in the league in rushing average 270.9 carries; Crowell had 198. Had he carried 250 times and maintained his average, Crowell would have finished with 1,200 yards.
There is nothing new to report on talks with Pryor and the Browns' efforts to keep him off the free agent market. The team's position voiced the day after the 2016 season ended has not changed.
Vice president of football operations Sashi Brown spoke of Collins and Pryor when he said: "Our plan on both of those players is try to extend them without the use of the tag, and I would leave it at that."
The projected franchise figure of $15.8 million would make Pryor the league's highest paid receiver. The Browns hope to have a contract completed with Pryor before free agency begins.
The team could give Pryor the transition tag, which would allow them to match an offer he receives, but that does not seem likely.