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T.J. Ward, Alex Mack want to stay with Browns in 2014

Strong safety T.J. Ward leads the Cleveland Browns in tackles and tackles for losses this season. As we discussed on Tuesday's "Around The League Podcast" Pro Bowl selection preview, Seattle Seahawks Defensive Player of the Year candidate Earl Thomas is the only safety playing at a higher level this season.

Retaining Ward and fellow impending free agent, center Alex Mack, will be high on the Browns' list of offseason priorities.

Fortunately, neither player is anxious to test the open market.

"I definitely want to be back," Ward said Tuesday, via The Plain Dealer. "I like my team. I love my teammates. I love being in this city. I love the organization. We haven't had many wins, but I think we're building something here, and I think it's being built the right way. ... I want to play in the playoffs here, I want to bring this city a championship."

Mack has told The Plain Dealer several times over the past five months that he wants to re-sign with the Browns.

"Yeah, I think he definitely wants to come back," said left tackle Joe Thomas, who referred to Mack as "one of the best centers in the NFL."

Both Ward and Mack are candidates for the franchise tag in the coming offseason.

While some franchise players bristle at the notion of the tag, Ward is fine with the projected one-year salary of roughly $8 million.

"If I get the tag, I get the tag," Ward said. "That would just be one more year here."

Ward and Mack are two of the six most valuable players on general manager Michael Lombardi's roster. It's a tangible sign of progress that neither is looking forward to fleeing a venue formerly known as the Factory of Sadness.

The latest "Around The League Podcast" delivered a Christmas gift, analyzing the chaotic playoff picture in both conferences.

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