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Two teams give potential free agents the little-used transition tag before deadline

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Pittsburgh Steelers
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(USA Today Sports Images)

The Steelers and Browns didn't want to completely commit to two of their free agents to be as franchise players, but they managed to tag them anyway.

Cleveland and Pittsburgh used the relatively rare transition tag for center Alex Mack and outside linebacker Jason Worilds, respectively, just before Monday's 4 p.m. Eastern deadline. Even though the transition designation isn't used often, it makes sense for teams.

The Browns and Steelers retain the right of first refusal for those two players. If some team offers an outrageous contract to Mack or Worilds, their teams can let them go, nothing lost and nothing gained. Unlike the franchise tag, there's no compensation if another team signs their player. But if the player gets a fair deal or one that's even less than the team was prepared to offer, they can match and keep the player. It's a way for those two teams to tangibly see the market on two good, young players and react however they wish.

[Be sure to check out Shutdown Corner's NFL free-agent rankings. Click here for the list of offensive players, and click here for the list of defensive and special teams players]

The problem is the price. Worilds will count about $9.75 million against the cap, and Mack's transition tag is a little more than $10 million. Those numbers will be on their teams' caps until they sign a long-term deal. That's a large commitment headed into free agency but it does give the teams some control over free agents they want to keep.

Worilds came on strong late last season, with seven sacks in his last eight games. Mack has been one of the best centers in the NFL for a few years, and he's still just 28.

Both players will be popular in free agency, but the difference now is their original teams can keep an eye on them and decide if they'd like to match whatever offer they get. 

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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