Big Blue Morning: No tag, Mack off market

We did not expect the New York Giants to use a franchise or transition player designation this year, and they did not. The 4 p.m. ET Monday deadline came and went without any Giants free agent getting tagged, which means that if they want to keep Jon Beason, Linval Joseph, Justin Tuck or any of their other free agents off the open market, they have to get them signed to a new contract by 4 pm ET on March 11, one week from today.

Some teams did use the franchise player and transition player designations, however. Washington franchised pass-rusher Brian Orakpo, which means he'll be around to torment Will Beatty at least two more times. And the Cleveland Browns used the transition player designation on free-agent center Alex Mack, which more or less takes the best free-agent center off the market.

I don't know whether the Giants were planning to make a run at Mack, and truth be told they still could. The problem is, Cleveland has the right to match any offer, so if the Giants agree with Mack on a contract, the Browns could simply give him the same contract and he would remain with the team. The Giants are OK on cap room, with about $18 million right now and more on the way once Chris Snee's and David Baas' salaries get cut and/or come off the books. But the Browns have about $30 million and have the incentive and the wherewithal to keep Mack. They also would forfeit their right to draft-pick compensation for him if they let him sign elsewhere. Point is, Mack is almost certain to be back in Cleveland in 2014.

The Giants will look at free-agent guards once free agency opens next week, and it's possible they'll look for a center as well. Baas is under contract but is a strong candidate for a pay cut or an outright release, though the more significant cap savings would come if they cut him after June 1. Much of the Giants' decision at center could have to do with Baas' health, but even if he's fully recovered from the neck injury that ended his season, he could be replaced for salary and production reasons.