The Cleveland Browns‘ offseason was filled with firings, promotions and a coaching search that felt incomplete. Now less than six months away from the start of the NFL season, the Browns finally have their coaching staff and front office aligned. However, Cleveland still has work to do when it comes to their on-field personnel, and their top priority must be center Alex Mack.
Since Mack came into the league in 2009, he’s had nine different starting quarterbacks under him and has started all 80 games for the Browns — even playing through appendicitis during a 2011 game. Along with fellow All-Pro left tackle Joe Thomas, Mack has helped anchor the offense through multiple regime changes, becoming a fixture in Cleveland.
Earlier this week, Cleveland used the transition tag on Mack, allowing other teams to place offers on the two-time Pro Bowler. By choosing to use the transition tag on Mack, Cleveland is attempting to gauge Mack’s worth around the league. If Mack agrees on a long-term deal with a team other than the Browns, Cleveland is able to match the offer within a week. The transition tag enables Mack to shop around, also diminishing the chances of souring the relationship between Mack’s camp and the Browns.
Although the Browns are able to match any potential offers for the five-year man out of Cal Berkeley and have every intention of doing so, the prospect of losing Mack would be a huge blow to the organization’s growth.
In today’s NFL, the center position has become increasingly vital and is an extension of the quarterback. The center is responsible for calling out defenses, blocking schemes, and in some cases calling audibles. For a Browns organization that has lacked consistency especially under center, Mack’s football IQ and skill provide a blanket of sorts for whoever is playing quarterback.
Having gone through multiple coaches and tumultuous seasons in Cleveland, the idea of playing elsewhere would be enticing to Mack. However, the Browns are starting to plug the right pieces into their lineup. Last season, Cleveland had more Pro Bowl invitees (five) than wins (four). While the win column in 2013 wasn’t full, the likes of Thomas, cornerback Joe Haden and the league leader in receiving yards, Josh Gordon, give reasons to believe the organization is headed in the right direction.
Coming to terms with Mack will provide necessary stability to an ever-changing offense, and all signs point to Mack remaining a Brown in 2014 and beyond.
The Browns head into the offseason with $56 million in cap room and have left themselves a cushion for whatever the going rate is for Mack’s services. When the official start of the NFL free agency period begins on March 11, there will be plenty of change throughout the league. There is a strong chance that Mack will be signing an offer sheet with a team other than the Browns, but don’t expect him to be sporting a helmet other than the burnt orange.