Browns may have no choice but to match any offer sheet for Mack

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It took nearly a month, but someone finally has brought in Browns center Alex Mack for a visit.  The next question becomes whether the Jaguars will sign the veteran center to an offer sheet.

Then, if an offer is made, the question will be whether the Browns will match.  But how can they not match?  By choosing to use the transition tag, which gives the Browns no compensation if the Browns choose not to match, Cleveland opted to offer $10 million instead of the franchise tag.  The franchise tag would have cost only another $1.6 million, and it would have given the Browns a pair of first-round picks as compensation, guaranteeing that no one would try to sign Mack away from the Browns.

What’s that, you say?  No center is worth $11.6 million on a one-year deal?  You’re right.  But no center is worth $10 million on a one-year deal, either.  By opting for the lower number, the Browns embraced the possibility that someone will try to sign Mack, a possibility that before this year would have been regarded as very slim.  But after the Browns signed restricted free agent receiver Andrew Hawkins away from the Bengals and after the Falcons inked Saints safety Rafael Bush to an offer sheet, it’s now apparently fair game to pilfer players via a device that, before this year, had been used once since 2010.

The Browns also have roughly $5 million more in remaining 2014 cap space than the Jaguars, $30 million versus $25 million.  Even if the Jaguars make Mack a ridiculously high offer, how can the Browns refuse to match without admitting that they’d badly misread the situation when choosing to save the $1.6 million that would have prevented the Jaguars and anyone else from making a play for Mack?

There are reports that the drop-dead figure for the Browns will be $22 million guaranteed over three years.  Even then, if the Jaguars are willing to pay it, how can the Browns sell to a long-suffering fan base a refusal to do the same?

The good news/bad news for the Browns could be that the Jaguars ultimately will offer Mack a one-year deal with a commitment not to use the franchise tag in 2015 or a multi-year deal with a massive balloon payment next March, guaranteeing his release.  That would make it easier to match the offer sheet, but it would guarantee that Mack would be on the open market next year.

And if the offer sheet gives Mack another million or two above what Mack was due to earn this year, that could help the Jaguars lure Mack to town next year.

15 responses to “Browns may have no choice but to match any offer sheet for Mack

  1. Easy sell: Re-sign Joe Haden and Jordan Cameron. They are more important to the long term success of the team than Alex Mack. Then draft a center with one of the 5 picks they have in the first 3 rounds.

  2. The Jags will need to really overpay to get Mack, who has made it obvious he wants out of Cleveland. I think that will be their play

  3. I do not get this he wants out of cleveland because he does not think they will be good so he goes to the jags who r the worse team in the league

  4. So the Jags choices are either overpay by some ridiculous number or agree to rent the guy for a year and hope he comes back? Why would they do that deal?

  5. Congratulations to Cleveland for signing the amazing, disappearing 5’6″ Andrew Hawkins away from the Bengals.

  6. The browns will have the best WR corps in the AFC North by far and the entire NFL when they pick Sammy Watkins at #4. With the addition of David Carr at #26 look for the browns to easily take the AFC North, and make the playoffs in 2014

  7. As I’ve written before, I think that some people underestimate the value of a top center. That said, it doesn’t seem as though Alex Mack wants to stay with the Browns, which is puzzling because they have a lot of talent, with more on the way, and will likely be a very good team very soon. His timing seems to be off a bit…
    Under those circumstances, they should probably let him walk, draft a new center in the first three rounds, and apply their cash elsewhere.

  8. Given that no one is paying their center 8 figures per year, my assumption is Cleveland took a calculated risk that Mack would not sign the 10 million tender, but would have signed the 11.6 million tender. My guess is Cleveland would have been unhappy about Mack signing either tender, but had determined they could live with paying him 10 million for one year. The transition tag afforded them the opportunity to consider matching any offer any other team put up and they were comfortable with that. If they would have franchised Mack, it is obvious no one would have touched him and likely Mack would have signed the tender. Of all the scenarios for how it could have played out the one in which the Browns were unwilling to live with was paying him 11.6 million dollars for one year. I don’t see a problem with Cleveland’s thinking.

  9. After Mack signs the tender trade him to Indianapolis for its 2015 1st round draft choice before Jim Irsay completes rehab.

    Problem solved!

  10. If the Browns don’t retain Mack after this year they must draft a center or a guard would could play center this year instead of waiting until Mack walks. The Browns would be better served drafting Watkins at #4 and the best available OL who fit their scheme in the 2nd round. Defense will be addressed in the 3rd round by adding a CB and ILB. Carr looks just ok at #26.

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