Updates from Saturday, April 12
Plain Dealer reporter Mary Kay Cabot supplies Mack's thoughts on his signing process:
"It's been a long, hard road, but I'm here and I'm happy,'' Mack told cleveland.com in an exclusive phone interview Saturday. "I'm excited. I'm fired up. There's no bad blood. Now that it's done, I'm happy.''
The Browns also can't trade him up until the start of 2017 and can't franchise or transition him after 2015 because of the timing of the opt-out clause.
"It really gave me a lot of options as a player which is something that's not typical, but I'm happy both ways (if it's a two-year deal or longer),'' he said. "I got a long-term deal, and we got a nice good contract that both sides are happy with. I'm excited (about being the highest paid center) and what can I promise is that I'll try my hardest day in and day out and I'll be the same person.''
Mack, 27, denied national reports that he badly wanted out of Cleveland.
"I don't believe I ever said that,'' he said "Seeing the options and trying to test free agency and see what else was out there was something that we wanted to do and we had a small opportunity to kind of get a little bit of that.''
Updates from Friday, April 11
The Browns made things official on Friday:
BREAKING: Browns will match offer sheet for Pro Bowl Center Alex Mack. Follow http://t.co/TFhsZHhQHp for details.— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) April 11, 2014
ESPN's Adam Schefter first reported the Browns had matched Jacksonville's offer and will keep Mack:
Well that didn't take long: Browns are matching Jacksonville's offer sheet for C Alex Mack. Cleveland keeps Mack, per source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 11, 2014
C Alex Mack has signed an offer sheet with the Jaguars and paperwork has been turned in to league office. Story to follow.— John Oehser (@JohnOehser) April 11, 2014
Michael DiRocco of ESPN reports the timeline the Browns have to match the offer sheet:
Cleveland Browns have until 4 pm Wednesday to match the offer sheer Alex Mack signed with Jaguars.— Michael DiRocco (@ESPNdirocco) April 11, 2014
But, ESPN's Adam Schefter provides a different timeline:
Browns have until midnight Wednesday to match the five-year offer sheet that Pro-Bowl C Alex Mack signed with Jacksonville.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 11, 2014
Schefter also gives contract details:
Browns transition-tagged center Alex Mack signed his five-year, $42M offer sheet that includes $26M guaranteed with the Jaguars.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 11, 2014
Alex Mack can void final three years of deal with promise he cannot be tagged again. Deal also includes a no-trade provision.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 11, 2014
Albert Breer of NFL.com breaks it down:
Alex Mack's offer sheet made simple -- As a practical matter, he plays out transition tag, then decides on a 4-yr, $32M deal with $16M guar.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) April 11, 2014
One way to look at the Alex Mack offer sheet: It's a 2-year, $18M deal with an $8M player option for '16, and $8M club options for '17, '18.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) April 11, 2014
The bottom line, though, is if Mack plays up to the deal, he'll void after two years and become a free agent again at 30 years old.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) April 11, 2014
Updates from Thursday, April 10
NFL.com's Ian Rapoport provides contract details for Alex Mack's offer sheet, which he is expected to sign tomorrow:
Here is #Jaguars offer sheet Alex Mack will be signing tomorrow: 5 years, $42M. It’s $18M over 2 with player option after ’15. Can’t tag him— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 10, 2014
Because of the timing of the void after 2 years of Alex Mack’s deal, the team — Browns or Jags — can’t tag him after 2015. That’s big— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 10, 2014
Fox Sports' Mike Garafolo provides more details:
Now here's another wrinkle: Mack gets $8 million FULLY guaranteed in Year 3 if he doesn't void after 2 years. So that's up to $26m in gtd $.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) April 10, 2014
ESPN's Adam Schefter reports the Browns are expected to retain Mack's services despite the Jaguars' interest:
Once it is signed, Browns figure to match Jacksonville's five-year offer sheet to C Alex Mack "in no time at all", per source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 10, 2014
NBC's Mike Florio provides financial perspective surrounding Mack:
With the average value of the contract being lower than what Mack would get under the transition tag for 2014 and transition/franchise tag in 2015, the deal allows the Browns to keep Mack for at least two years for, at most, $20 million. Keeping Mack for two years under the tag would cost $22 million.
It’s a given Mack wants to leave Cleveland. But if that’s the case, he should have taken the $10 million for 2014, hoping the Browns wouldn’t pay $12 million to a center in 2015.
Not matching the offer will entail explaining why the Browns were willing to pay Mack $10 million under the no-compensation transition tag but not $11.6 million under the two-first-round-picks franchise tag, which would have scared the Jaguars and everyone else away.
Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com shared her thoughts on Mack possibly staying with the Browns:
I firmly believe that Alex Mack will be happy staying with the #Browns -- overjoyed even -- if the money is right. It's about the money.— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) April 10, 2014
Later in the evening, Rapoport provided additional information on the situation:
Alex Mack has signed an offer sheet with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com broke the news:
Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports added that the deal will be extremely lucrative:
Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com provides more specifics on the financial details:
According to the source, the deal pays out roughly $18 million to $20 million over the first two years, fully guaranteed. Over three, it’s in the ballpark of $27 million, guaranteed.
The Jaguars don’t view the contract as a good deal for the team, but since the franchise currently doesn’t have many young players in which to make a major investment, they see the opportunity to lure Mack to town as a way to secure a Pro Bowl talent at an underrated position of importance to the success of an offense, and as a way to change the franchise’s perception. Whether they get Mack or not, Mack is choosing Jacksonville over Cleveland, after five seasons with the Browns.
Still, the Jaguars view their chances of ultimately getting Mack at 50-50. On one hand, the Browns could immediately match the offer, because the last thing the Browns need is another embarrassment. And if the contract pays out a full $20 million over two years and then he voids the deal and signs elsewhere, that’s still more than $5 million less that the Browns would have paid Mack for two more years under the franchise tag.
The Cleveland Browns now get a chance to match the offer after placing the transition tag on the offensive lineman before the free-agent period. The window to match is for five days.
ESPN's Adam Schefter passed along an interesting note on the deal:
Alex Mack's 5-year deal with Jacksonville will be designed to make it as difficult as possible for the Browns to match, per sources.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 9, 2014
Schefter noted after the Browns used the transition tag that they would have the right of first refusal if he signed an offer sheet elsewhere:
Browns are placing the transition tag on center Alex Mack, which will give Cleveland chance to match any offer sheet he would sign.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 3, 2014
Before the signing period opened, Mack's agent told Peter King of TheMMQB.com that he was confident he could create a contract with another team that would be a challenge for the Browns to match, if that was the goal:
Agent for transition-tagged Cle C Alex Mack tells me he's "confident" he can structure pact w/a "reasonable likelihood" Browns won't match.— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) March 10, 2014
Cleveland selected Mack with the 21st overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft. He's proceeded to start all 80 games the team has played in the five seasons that have followed. Over that time, he's developed into one of the most reliable centers in the league.
Pro Football Focus rated him as the top available center on the market. While he's solid in pass protection, it's his work as part of the rushing attack that boosted his grade and made him an attractive option to teams looking to bolster their line:
In the run game Mack has shown himself to be one of the league's best—in his five seasons he has graded above +10.0 three times. While Mack isn't one of the game’s elite centers, he is a very good player who hasn't missed a snap in his career.
It's also why the Browns wanted to maintain the option to keep him. Without him, Cleveland would have to seek somebody else to anchor the line.
Brent Sobleski of USA Today provided comments from the talented center following a meeting with key members of the organization. He wasn't opposed to making a Cleveland return if that's how things played out:
I have to be comfortable with that. It's their right. I have to weigh that into any potential decision. But I walked away from our meeting with the feeling it was a good meeting. Without a doubt, it's not a bad thing to return to the Browns.
Now that Mack found a deal he liked with another team, it will be interesting to see what the Browns do. Although losing him would obviously be a setback for the offensive line, the front office also must consider the financial impact for the rest of this offseason and beyond.
What should the Browns do?
Either way, Mack should continue to perform at a high level as he prepares for his age-28 season. The impact of letting him walk away is probably greater than matching the offer for Cleveland, so keeping him is the likely outcome.
The decision is ultimately up to the Browns front office, though.