Per one league source with knowledge of the team’s thinking, the Browns will likely match the offer.
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.
If the Browns match the offer, Mack will have at least two more years in Cleveland. And while the notion that Mack doesn’t want to be in Cleveland could prompt the Browns to consider not forcing Mack to stick around, most teams don’t like to let the employees dictate the terms of employment. If Mack can get out because he simply says he wants out, who’s next? Joe Thomas? Joe Haden? Josh Gordon? Brandon Weeden? (Oh, wait.)
From a P.R. standpoint, it will be much easier for the Browns to sell matching the offer than not matching it. Matching the offer actually saves some money under the two-year tag scenario and extends Mack’s stay, possibly long enough to get him to decide to stay even longer, once he sees that stability has crept into Cleveland.
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.
While it may make more sense from a football standpoint to let Mack go, plenty of decisions aren’t made based solely or even primarily on football considerations. The Browns have been mired in a sea of dysfunction; losing Mack via a miscalculation regarding the transition/franchise tag will be viewed as the latest tidal wave.