Matching Jaguars' Offer for C Alex Mack Was Absolute No-Brainer for Browns

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystApril 11, 2014

Cleveland Browns center Alex Mack works on his blocking technique before an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
Mark Duncan

The Cleveland Browns are something of a punchline among other NFL fans. Granted, the organization has brought much of that on themselves with 15 years of futility since rejoining the league.

Well, beleaguered Browns fans, buck up! For once, the Cleveland front office managed to do something right. And it wasn't even in a Kevin Costner movie or anything!

Of course, the decision was a complete no-brainer, but still...

And yes, I'm snarky. My first season as a young Browns fan ended with "Red Right 88." Suffer through the indignities I have over three decades for the love of this dumpster fire of a football team and you'd get snarky too.

Still, give credit where it's due.

With Cleveland center (and transition-tag designee) Alex Mack agreeing to terms with the Jacksonville Jaguars on a five-year, $42 million contract, the Browns were left with a decision.

Match the amount and terms of the offer or watch the 28-year-old two-time Pro Bowler walk out the door.

As Adam Schefter of ESPN reported, it didn't take the Browns long to make up their minds:

As Mary Kay Cabot of The Northeast Ohio Media Group reports, Cleveland general manager Ray Farmer released a statement:

I'm excited for both Alex and the Browns. We have talked about keeping our own players and this is a positive for us. Alex is a quality person and player that truly brings to life what playing like a Brown means. The ending is positive for everyone.

Keeping our young, good nucleus of players is vital for clubs and specifically the Browns, and therefore is this a good step. I'm excited for Alex and our football team as we continue to prepare for the 2014 season. The next step is the upcoming draft.

Farmer should be excited. Things were looking a little shaky there for a bit, amid reports that Mack wanted out of Cleveland and speculation as to the terms the Jaguars may add to the deal in an effort to make it difficult for Cleveland to match.

In the end, though, it wasn't difficult at all, as evidenced by the fact it took the Browns less than 24 hours to pull the trigger on matching.

Granted, the deal isn't perfect for the Browns, but that's what happens when you let another team dictate the terms of a contract. That could have been avoided by using the franchise tag on Mack rather than the slightly less costly transition tag.

Still, it also could have been worse. The NFL Network's Albert Breer broke down the particulars of the deal or at least the only ones worth knowing:

As Breer points out, assuming he continues to play at his current level, Mack can opt out after two years and get one last fat payday.

Or, Mack could threaten to opt out after the 2015 season, in an effort to get the Browns to up the $8 million he's owed in 2016.

In a worst-case scenario, even if the bottom falls out and Mack gets hurt or starts playing like Eric Wood of the Buffalo Bills (who made over $6 million last year to be Pro Football Focus' 26th-ranked center), then the Browns are on the hook for $26 million and Mack's set for life.

Even then, it was a risk well worth taking, because Mack hasn't given an iota of indication that there's trouble on the horizon.

Alex Mack Career PFF Rankings
20109.2 (9)2.5 (7)5.8 (11)229
20118.7 (10)5.2 (11)0.6 (17)428
201214.9 (10)5.1 (9)14.1 (6)328
201317.8 (4)5.9 (5)10.0 (5)2518
Per Pro Football Focus

In each of Mack's four NFL seasons, the former first-round pick has ranked as a top-10 center at PFF. His fourth-place finish in 2013 was a career-best.

Then there's the matter of Mack's durability:

See? It wasn't a difficult decision at all, especially when you consider one more vitally important point.

On a team where "strengths" aren't exactly growing on trees, the Cleveland offensive line, anchored by Mack and Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas, is one.

Whether it's Brian Hoyer or a rookie behind center for the Browns this year, Cleveland's quarterback is going to be green. Having Mack in front of him barking out line calls, while Thomas watches his blind side is only going to help that young signal-caller develop.

Yes, the deal makes Mack the league's highest-paid center, but it's not like he isn't deserving of that moniker, and the $8.4 million average annual salary on the deal is only slightly higher than the $8.2 million Ryan Kalil makes with the Carolina Panthers.

Granted, this isn't some miraculous panacea that will suddenly cure all that ails the Browns. There isn't going to be a Hollywood ending in Cleveland this year. There are too many holes to fill and too many years of losing looming over the franchise like a thundercloud.

However, considering the uphill battle Farmer and head coach Mike Pettine faced when they assumed their new roles earlier this year, 2014 has been about as good so far for the Browns as fans could reasonably hope.

And that good spring kept right on rolling Friday.

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