Alex Mack’s agents believe that an offer sheet for the transition-tagged center can be crafted that the Browns won’t match. Alex Mack’s agents have yet to find any takers, even though getting Mack would entail no compensation to Cleveland.
A full week into free agency, Mack has had no visits and by all appearances has generated no interest. And for good reason. With the poison pill eliminated under the 2011 labor deal, there’s no way to craft a long-term deal that puts the Browns in a corner without putting the team that signs Mack to an offer sheet into that same corner.
As a result, the still cap-rich Browns would likely match the offer, unless it grossly overpays Mack even more than his $10 million transition tender would pay on a one-year deal.
That said, there are ways to ensure that Mack would make it to the open market in 2015, if a team would be interested in pursuing him then. For example, Mack could be signed to an offer sheet that pays him $10 or more for 2014, with an enormous option bonus or roster bonus due on the first day of the 2015 league year. If the Browns were to match the deal, they’d have to cut Mack before, for example, $50 million is owed in March of next year.
The offer sheet also could consist of a one-year deal with a commitment to not use the franchise or transition tag in 2015. This would ensure that Mack hits the open market next year.
Any team that signs Mack to an offer sheet like that risks creating the perception that it’s not happy with the current starting center or that it anticipates pursuing a new center in 2015. There’s also a risk that the freedom the team helps finagle will blow up on that team next year, if Mack signs with another team in the same division.
Regardless, Mack’s best play would be to sign the transition tender before the Browns realize that they’re offering to pay $10 million for one year to a center and rescind the offer. If no offer is going to come from another team, Mack needs to realize that, if the tender is yanked in April, May, or June, the money on the open market won’t be anywhere close to $10 million per year.