Adams could show the way for Mack, Ward

When pondering center Alex Mack's and safety T.J. Ward's futures, it's probably important to remember Mike Adams' foray into free agency.

Adams is a former Cleveland Browns safety now starting for the Denver Broncos and will play in the Super Bowl on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks.

Tony Grossi caught up with Adams in New Jersey and did a fine story about his life and his career -- and his positive impact with the Browns.

Adams always played well for Cleveland, and was a positive presence in the locker room. For whatever reason, the Browns let him go as a free agent and he is now in Denver doing the things he did in Cleveland.

But as Grossi points out, it took Adams five years to win 28 games in Cleveland. He's now won 28 games in just two seasons with the Broncos.

There were a lot of reasons Denver won all those games, and most start and end with a guy named Peyton Manning. When Adams went into free agency, quarterback Tim Tebow was coming off a playoff win over Pittsburgh. It's to Adams' good fortune that John Elway recognized acquiring Manning was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and he did not settle for Tebow.

That being said, Adams' experience shows what can happen with a free agent. When a player experiences losing for so long the way Mack and Ward have, the temptation to go somewhere to win has to be a factor.

Adams said he didn't want to leave Cleveland, that it was the Browns' choice to let him go. So it is not automatic by any means that a player will leave.

Mack and Ward both spoke of liking the team, the organization and the city. It's not inconceivable both could stay.

But CEO Joe Banner's history has not been to pay a ton of money at certain positions, and center and safety are among them. The former coaching staff was high on safety Josh Aubrey, who missed the season with an ankle injury. The Browns may feel he can step in for Ward. And they may feel that John Greco can slide from guard to center. The Browns haven't won many games with Ward and Mack; the team may feel it can't do worse without them. The Browns made no effort to sign them this past season, which also should be some indicator.

The Browns would lose something if both leave. They're both good players -- both were in the Pro Bowl this season -- and they're both smart. They are at the age where they should be hitting their peak.

So if they leave it would hurt, and it would create two more needs on a team that already has plenty.

The one unknown is whether the recent negativity that has surrounded the Browns affects a player's thinking on his future. A player might not like the idea of leaving his team -- until he sees how another team operates and he sees the money being offered.

In free agency, it only takes one team to make a player rich.

Ward and Mack have certainly earned the right to be free agents and test the market.

If the pair want an example of the potential positives of free agency, they only need look at Adams, who has promised to walk home to Paterson, N.J., if Denver wins.

That's quite a walk for a guy who walked away from losing two years ago.