The Jaguars apparently are going all in.
According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Jags will sign center Alex Mack to a five-year offer sheet. Mack, who has been given the transition tag by the Browns, can sign an offer sheet with any other team. The Browns will have five days to match. If the Browns don’t match, they get no compensation.
Per Schefter, the offer sheet will be “designed to make it as difficult as possible” for the Browns to match. Without the availability of the so-called poison pill device, there’s no way that the Jaguars can construct an offer that would be on its face more painful for the Browns than it would be for the Jaguars. Whatever the bonuses, salaries, guarantees, and cap numbers would be for the Browns, that’s what they would be for the Jaguars.
Agent Marvin Demoff has expressed confidence that an offer sheet could be constructed that the Browns wouldn’t match. While that may have been possible with a shorter-term deal, it will be very difficult to craft a five-year contract that will be acceptable to the Jaguars but not to the Browns.
The only possible loophole comes from a wink-nod arrangement between the Jaguars and Mack, involving a device like (as Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports hinted earlier today) a mammoth balloon payment early in the 2015 league year. The high cap number would need to be spread over the remaining four years as a signing bonus. But if Mack tells the Browns that he’d never agree to restructure the contract in Cleveland, the Browns would have to choose between carrying a huge cap number in 2015 or cutting him.
In Jacksonville, Mack could agree in 2015 to convert the balloon payment to a signing bonus, shrinking the cap number dramatically.
Mack, Demoff, and the Jaguars would be able to truthfully say that no agreements have been reached in 2014 regarding what will happen in 2015. And no agreements need to be reached. It’s no secret that Demoff and the Jaguars are trying to conjure an offer sheet the Browns won’t match. Perhaps the only way to do that is to include a term that, absent a restructuring, would be unacceptable to both teams. It will be implied that Mack would restructure the contract for the Jaguars, and not for the Browns.
It’s a creative approach, but it could provoke a strenuous objection from the Browns. Which could spice up what would otherwise be a slow week or two in advance of the draft.
Regardless of how it plays out, the day on which a fictional drama about the Browns debuts could include some far more intriguing real-life drama for the franchise.