The Browns ended their tug-of-war with the Jacksonville Jaguars by swiftly pulling Pro Bowl center Alex Mack back to Cleveland.
About four hours after news broke about Mack signing a five-year, $42 million offer sheet from the Jaguars on Friday afternoon, the Browns announced they would retain him by matching the offer. As a result, the Browns solidified their center position for at least the next two seasons and ended a saga that has featured twists and turns since they used a transition tag on Mack last month to keep him from becoming an unrestricted free agent.
The new deal makes Mack the highest-paid center in the NFL at $8.4 million a year, surpassing the $8.16 million per year Carolina Panthers center Ryan Kalil received in 2011. Kalil signed a six-year, $49 million contract, which included $28 million guaranteed and an $18 million signing bonus.
“I’m excited for both Alex and the Browns,” General Manager Ray Farmer said in a statement. “We have talked about keeping our own players and this is a positive for us. Alex is a quality person and player that truly brings to life what playing like a Brown means.
“The ending is positive for everyone. Keeping our young, good nucleus of players is vital for clubs and specifically the Browns, and therefore this is a good step. I’m excited for Alex and our football team as we continue to prepare for the 2014 season. The next step is the upcoming draft.”
The Browns had until Wednesday to match the offer from the Jaguars, but they did not hesitate. Armed with a league-high $29.6 million in salary-cap space compared with the Jaguars’ $25.1 million, the Browns had an advantage all along.
So Mack, 28, will return to the Browns under terms crafted by his lead agent, Marvin Demoff, and the Jaguars.
The Browns placed a transition tag on Mack last month after failing to reach a long-term deal with him. Mack would’ve played for the Browns next season for $10.039 million had he signed the tag.
Instead, Mack’s new deal includes $26 million guaranteed and gives him the right to void the contract and become a free agent after the 2015 season, a league source said, speaking on condition of anonymity because terms of the deal were not announced. The contract is also constructed to ensure Mack would not be susceptible to being tagged if he voids the deal after two seasons, the source said, and it also contains a no-trade provision.
Mack, a University of California graduate, is set to make $18 million guaranteed in the first two years. If he stays for a third season, he’ll receive another $8 million guaranteed.
The Browns have compiled a record of 23-57 and changed head coaches four times since they selected Mack in the first round (21st overall) of the 2009 draft. The opt-out clause in Mack’s contract is a mechanism he could use to flee Cleveland in two years if the losing and instability persists, or if he isn’t satisfied with his situation for other reasons.
Last season, the 6-foot-4, 311-pound Mack was voted to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career and was named second-team All Pro. He also served as an injury replacement in the Pro Bowl following the 2010 season. John Morrow and Tom DeLeone are the only other centers in Browns history to appear in multiple Pro Bowls.
ProFootballFocus.com ranked Mack fourth among all NFL centers last season. He has started all 80 games and played all 4,998 snaps in his five professional seasons.
By Nate Ulrich - Akron Beacon Journal (MCT)
©2014 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)
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