Center Alex Mack soon will have a ticket out of Cleveland, if he wants it. The 2009 first-round pick now enters his contract year, and the Browns surely won’t stop him if he chooses to leave.
Inexplicably, the franchise tag puts all offensive linemen in the same bucket, ensuring that any offensive lineman whom a team tries to keep in place for one more year will be paid the average of the five highest-paid left tackles in the game. As a result, few guards, centers, or right tackles ever get tagged.
But Mack doesn’t sound like a guy who wants to leave a team that hasn’t been to the playoffs since seven years before he arrived.
“I’m really happy here,” Mack tells Tom Reed of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “I’ve had great success with [offensive line coach George Warhop] and being with Joe Thomas and this offensive line is what I want. I think I’m a good player and that’s really what my goal was to be.”
Mack says he isn’t thinking about the possibility of a new contract.
“At this point in camp, I’m here to work on football stuff,” Mack said. “All of that stuff is going to be handled by agents and upstairs people. My goal is to not let that distract me.”
There’s no reason to think the new Browns regime, which is changing pretty much everything, would want to get rid of Mack. But the real question is whether Mack will be offered what he and his agents believe he deserves. If not, he could be going elsewhere.
That would be a shame for the Browns. Two years ago, running back Peyton Hillis declined to play with a case of strep throat during his own contract year. One week later, Mack suited up despite having appendicitis.
Contract year or not, expect Mack to bring it in 2013 like he has for four prior NFL seasons. And expect him to give the Browns every opportunity to keep him in town.