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Lessons learned from the Alex Mack offer sheet

Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

In extending an offer sheet to center Alex Mack, the Jaguars apparently relied on Mack’s supposedly intense desire to leave Cleveland — and the Browns potential willingness to let him walk because of it.

Now that the offer has been matched, Mack says he never wanted to leave.  Even if he created a very strong impression to others that he did.

Ultimately, Mack didn’t really want to leave.  Or getting $18 million guaranteed changed his mind.  Or the Browns didn’t care one way or the other.

The offer signed by Mack and matched in Cleveland pays out $18 million fully guaranteed over two years and, if not voided by the player, another $8 million fully guaranteed in year three.  League insiders have now digested the terms, and it has sparked a few ideas about how a team could use a device like this in the future in a way that would deter a match.

The most obvious reaction was that the offer didn’t force the Browns to pay enough money.  The Browns are guaranteed to have Mack for two years at $18 million, or for three at $26 million.  Absent a long-term deal, Mack would have made $10 million in 2014 under the transition tag.  If tagged again in 2015 (transition or franchise), Mack would have made $22 million over two years.  If not tagged, he would have hit the open market next year.

It’s unclear what it would have taken to get the Browns to pass, but in hindsight the offer sheet made it a lot cheaper for the Browns to keep Mack for the next two years.  And if Mack is telling the truth about wanting to stay in Cleveland, he won’t void the deal after two years — and they’ll keep him for three years at only $4 million more than it would have cost to keep him for two years under the tag.

The pay-as-you-go nature of the offer, which has become more prevalent as teams pay more attention to the minimum cash spending requirements of the 2011 CBA, also made it more likely that the Browns would match the offer.  By using structure with much of the total compensation over the first two or three years shifted to a signing bonus payable in full within a day or two after the contract becomes official, a team with offseason cash-flow issues and/or concerns about satisfying the minimum spending requirements in future years could be less likely to match.

The best approach, despite the potential for hard feelings among teams and not-so-subtle disapproval from the league at large, would have been to park a huge roster bonus in Year Two, and for Mack to make it clear to the Browns that he would not restructure the deal to give the team cap relief come 2015.  Implicit in the situation would have been a willingness by Mack to convert the roster bonus to a cap-friendly signing bonus next year.

Ultimately, the Jaguars chose a path less likely to ruffle feathers, hopeful that Mack truly wanted out of Cleveland and that the Browns would factor that desire into their assessment of the situation.  If/when a similar situation arises in the future, the team that tries to lure the player away should be less willing to bank on non-financial considerations and more inclined to craft an offer that the player’s current team can’t not refuse.

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28 Responses to “Lessons learned from the Alex Mack offer sheet”
  1. jvillenole says: Apr 16, 2014 9:52 AM

    I disagree. I think the Jaguars offered Mack exactly what they were willing to pay him. This article implies that the Jags “low-balled” because of what they deemed as Mack’s personal desire to leave Cleveland. Well seeing how Mack just became the highest paid Center in the league, that hardly feels like “low-balling.”

  2. bbb82 says: Apr 16, 2014 9:54 AM

    “Now that the offer has been matched, Mack says he never wanted to leave. Even if he created a very strong impression to others that he did.”

    Not saying this isn’t true, but what exactly did he say/do to create a very strong impression that he wanted out? Seems more media created.

  3. clevelandrocksyourface says: Apr 16, 2014 9:59 AM

    He probably just didn’t want to move to London.

  4. salsendardo says: Apr 16, 2014 10:10 AM

    Jacksonville basically negotiated Mack’s contract for Cleveland and ultimately saved the Browns money. A genius move by their GM.

    Watch for more transition tags to show up next year. If no one offers the player, the team pays less than a franchise tag. If a team does offer, all the tagging team has to do is match it. Contract signed.

  5. theeperspective says: Apr 16, 2014 10:10 AM

    He said, “I need to get out of Cleveland so I can play for a winning franchise like the Jacksonville Jaguars!”

    Heck he probably did want to leave, unfortunately the only team willing to offer him a competitive contract bid was the only team that could split a 10 game series with the factory of sadness.(hypothetically speaking)

  6. ctsegall says: Apr 16, 2014 10:10 AM

    I think if Mack had truly wanted out of Cleveland, he would have signed the Transition Tender and played for the $10.5 million (poor guy…) and become an unrestricted free agent next year.

    He wanted to get paid, and he did. Good for Mack and good for my Browns.

    Now, let’s move on to what quarterback is going to be a bust. (hint: it’ll be the one they draft. The one(s) they pass on will be studs).

  7. hobiecat1 says: Apr 16, 2014 10:11 AM

    That’s a lot of money for a center. I too think the Jags made an offer based upon what they were willing to pay. The Browns matched..nothing ventured..nothing gained.

    And to suggest a nod..nod..wink..wink..deal. Yeah..that really sounds like a prudent course to take..uh huh.

  8. kwjsb says: Apr 16, 2014 10:14 AM

    This worked out well for the Browns…..
    Mack will stay.
    Ray Farmer was able to let others do his negotiating while he spent time concentrating on other issues.
    The Browns have a real GM finally.

    There is Hope and Change in C-Town

    If you like your center….. You CAN keep him (for real. no lie)

  9. charmcitychampions says: Apr 16, 2014 10:18 AM

    The idea behind allowing a transition tag is for the player to set the market for himself. This allows a team the ability to decide if they want to keep the player at that price. It is not about another team finding loopholes and creating problems for the other team to match their offer. That goes against the spirit of the tag. If you like a player, you make your offer. If he accepts, the other team can match the offer or choose not to. It’s that simple. If it were a player on your own team, you’d be pissed if the other team used a poison pill type of approach.

    Jags set a fair market offer for Mack and the Browns matched it. Zero drama needed here.

  10. awhite46 says: Apr 16, 2014 10:23 AM

    This wasn’t a “lesson learned”. Jason La Canfora had already reported the exact roster bonus scenario was a possibility. The real issue with you analysis is the exclusion of risk in your calculations. Mack is willing to give up some chance at future money to have, from his perspective, a guaranteed $26 million. If he blows an acl or has someone roll up on his ankle, then his market value plummets. Now, the Browns are stuck paying him as the highest paid center (at this point) for three years. From the Jags perspective, if you include that huge roster bonus, even with a wink-wink agreement, there’s nothing to stop Mack from breaking that agreement and leaving Jax if he has another productive season. Then, they’ve paid significant money to rent a player for one year, which isn’t the worst thing but since the Jags aren’t Super Bowl contenders, doesn’t fit well within the team’s plans. Also, I think you’re underestimating the option Mack has of hitting the open market in two years if things go well (i.e no injury). He’d be a premium free agent again. He’s just scored one payday and it’s rare for players in the NFL to score more than one. That opportunity at a 2nd in very valuable

  11. oldcracker says: Apr 16, 2014 10:24 AM

    I have stated in every one of my comments on this, not once did Mack say he wanted out of Cleveland, especially for Jacksonville. He just wanted some security in the event of an injury, and of course to max out his value…to get PAID! This would be his BIG contract.

    His agent and the supposed “football insiders” are the only ones who ever stated that Mack wanted out of Cleveland. It was the agent’s job to maximize his client’s payday. (I also think he was sore in dealing with the 3 Stooges, formerly of the Browns. Banner has that effect on people.)

    So basically, Ray Farmer, our new GM, schooled the rest of the NFL on using the transition tag. There is definitely a new day happening in Cleveland. In Ray we trust!

  12. falcons999 says: Apr 16, 2014 10:25 AM

    Personally, I think the Browns handled this quite well. Too many people assume they weren’t trying to negotiate with Mack.

    Given that they did away with the “poison pill” deal they would likely not take kindly to a “nudge, nudge, say no more, say no more” deal

    I bet the league told the Jags they would have to honor whatever deal they signed as signed.

  13. urbusted2 says: Apr 16, 2014 10:29 AM

    I like Ray Farmer more every day. I think he’s going to be a great GM.

  14. dakingsocrownme says: Apr 16, 2014 10:38 AM

    With the Browns willingness to match ANY offer sheet and pay Mack like a LT + Johnny Manziel admitting that he didn’t change protections @ the LOS as it was left up to the Center= Manziel will probably end up in Cleveland.

    What better way to ease the transition than to have a capable/Elite center that can make those calls.

    They are going QB first and I’d be really surprised if it wasn’t Manziel…makes too much sense for it not to be.

  15. machine64red2 says: Apr 16, 2014 10:41 AM

    Who needs sonny weaver?

  16. jaxbeachjagfan says: Apr 16, 2014 10:42 AM

    I’m glad Cleveland matched. $10 million a year for a center is stoopid. Caldwell was trying to rush the rebuild, but everything happens for a reason.

    Sometimes, your best move as a G.M. are the ones you don’t make.

  17. grruffgrruff says: Apr 16, 2014 10:44 AM

    yada, yada, yada,

    I’m a Cleveland Browns fan,
    but this is getting to much exposure.

    Let’s move on…

  18. poconophlyer says: Apr 16, 2014 10:59 AM

    I think ray farmer is a genius right now. He put the browns in a no lose situation. If the jags wanted him that much surely they would have offered more than the browns did over two years. Farmer used the cba to his advantage. He took risks too. He could have ended up with nothing for Mack. The jags put a number out there that a lot of their players are gonna remember come contract time. And if Mack truly wanted out of Cleveland, he had better options than the one he exercised. I think Mack just wanted market value and a five year deal. He got what he wanted, farmer got what he wanted, all at the expense of the jags. Furthermore, most Super Bowl teams don’t have the cap space to play the game. So these players are forced to look at non contenders. Good job ray! Happy you’re back Alex!

  19. kd75 says: Apr 16, 2014 11:27 AM

    Your move, Kevin Costner…

  20. uglydingo says: Apr 16, 2014 11:29 AM

    Alex Mack is another of Sonny Weaver Jr’s best draft picks. Sonny’s late Dad would be very proud. Browns are coming back.

  21. jny221 says: Apr 16, 2014 11:50 AM

    It’s hilarious that some people think the Browns somehow won this scenario.

    Exactly how is signing a center to a $9 million per year contract, one in which the player has almost all the power in, good business? Please, I’d love to know.

    And as for Mack, there’s a reason why he would accept this deal over the franchise tag for two years: risk of injury. That should be pretty damn obvious. $18 million fully guaranteed vs. $22 million possibly if he plays well and doesn’t injured. It’s a no-brainer. And if Mack somehow sets the world on fire and becomes the best interior lineman in football, he has an out and can make even more money a couple years down the road.

    The only person who wins here is Alex Mack.

  22. jaxbeachjagfan says: Apr 16, 2014 11:57 AM

    Kevin Costner is very happy Browns fans have SOMETHING to root for. yay #FICTION

  23. brownoholic says: Apr 16, 2014 12:04 PM

    Glad he’s back, but still oh-so overrated . . .

    Get a real right guard and plug in an average center. Same results.

    Oh wow, just remember how much Washington overpaid for Sean Lavau. Excuse me while I laugh really hard . . .

  24. thestrategyexpert says: Apr 16, 2014 12:22 PM

    JAX is the big loser here. They came away looking like chumps and wasting valuable time and money to help the Browns and Mack work out a deal. What a shame.

  25. johnnyb1976 says: Apr 16, 2014 12:35 PM

    The jags got rick rolled

  26. pats4win says: Apr 16, 2014 12:41 PM

    The real lesson learned:

    Don’t go cheap when you are trying to sign a solid player away from another team. The Jags had to know that the offer was going to be easy for Cleveland to match.

    Poor work by the Jags front office on this one.

  27. mortimeryoung says: Apr 16, 2014 1:19 PM

    The Jaguars offered him what they were willing to pay him, and the Browns matched it. No big deal for Jacksonville. I don’t understand the people who think the Jaguars lost anything. What did they lose? Some time and a steak dinner? I think Shad Khan can afford it.

  28. jaxbeachjagfan says: Apr 16, 2014 1:48 PM

    Congrats for hanging onto a $10 million dollar center that will get you 4.6 wins a year.

    YOU GO GIRLS!!

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