Browns tender Gipson, waiting game begins

Browns free safety Tashaun Gipson returns an interception for a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints. Gipson was tendered an offer by the Browns on Monday making him a restricted free agent.

Tony Dejak/AP

The Cleveland Browns waited until 24 hours before the start of the league year to place the second-round tender on restricted free agent safety Tashaun Gipson, and now the Browns will wait to see if Gipson has suitors willing to pay handsomely for the 2014 NFL interceptions leader.

The second-round tender means the Browns are willing to pay Gipson $2.36 million for 2015, his last season before he’s eligible for unrestricted free agency. It also means Gipson can negotiate with other teams starting Tuesday, and if one is willing to surrender a second-round pick to the Browns, Gipson can sign an offer sheet.

The Browns have the right to match any offer sheet Gipson receives. They can also negotiate a longer-term deal with Gipson on their own, though placing the tender on him indicates the sides haven’t seen eye to eye on that. 

So, the waiting begins Tuesday. Though a second-round pick plus a long-term financial commitment seems like a lot — and many teams will find the price too rich — it’s a lean year for available safeties both in the free-agent market and in the draft. 

Gipson, 24, had six interceptions last season. He missed the final five games with injuries to the MCL and PCL in his knee  that ended his season and kept him out of the Pro Bowl. 

Gipson wanted to play in the Pro Bowl but even if he would have been cleared, it wouldn’t have been smart with this negotiation — and payday — awaiting. 

That he’s just 24 and has 11 interceptions in 26 starts over the last two seasons might make Gipson the kind of player a team that has cap room and extra draft picks or doesn’t need immediate help from a second-rounder could be willing to take. Giving Gipson the second-round tender — the first-round tender would have cost $3.34 million — means the Browns could be in a similar spot they were in last year, when they placed the transition tag on center Alex Mack and ended up matching an offer Mack got from the Jacksonville Jaguars. 

The Jaguars need a safety but are unlikely to give up with pick No. 36 overall in this year’s draft to pursue Gipson. The Colts have a safety need and pick towards the end of the second round — and certainly haven’t been afraid to pursue former Browns in recent years. 

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The Browns also placed the second-round restricted tender on linebacker Craig Robertson who, like Gipson, is a former undrafted free agent who’s found a home and a role with the Browns. Backup safety and special teamer Johnson Bademosi and backup nose tackle Ishmaa’ily Kitchen got low-round tenders, meaning the Browns can match any offer they receive but would receive no compensation should they leave. Last year, the Browns got Andrew Hawkins from the Cincinnati Bengals via restricted free agency and owed the Bengals nothing because Hawkins was a former undrafted player who received the low tender. This year, the Bengals placed a second-round tender on former undrafted linebacker Emmanuel Lamur. 

When the player movement period opens Tuesday the Browns could see cornerback Buster Skrine leave for a big contract elsewhere. Jabaal Sheard and Ahytba Rubin are also Browns defenders eligible for unrestricted free agency.