Browns center Alex Mack has decided to opt out of his contract, voiding the final three years of his deal, reports Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports. Mack is now eligible to hit the open market next week, though it’s still possible he’ll work out a new agreement with the Browns to remain in Cleveland.
Mack, 30, has been one of the NFL’s most reliable centers since he entered the league in 2009. The veteran lineman has been Cleveland’s full-time starter since joining the team, starting all 16 regular-season games for the franchise in all but one of his seven NFL seasons. He has also earned three Pro Bowl nods.
Two years ago, when Mack first became eligible for free agency, the Browns used their transition tag on the center, who then signed a five-year, $42MM offer sheet with the Jaguars. Cleveland ultimately took advantage of the right of first refusal and matched the offer, but since the language of the contract included an opt-out for this winter, it was essentially a two-year deal rather than a five-year pact.
The timing of Mack’s decision comes as no surprise — the deadline for him to opt out was this coming Friday, March 4th. However, if he had opted out before Tuesday at 3:00pm central time, the Browns would still have the option to use a franchise or transition tag on him. As such, Mack had always been expected to take advantage of his opt-out during this window.
Since he had three years and $24MM remaining on his now-voided contract, Mack figures to aim to exceed those figures on the open market, or in a new deal with Cleveland. The Jaguars will be one suitor to watch, since Jacksonville still has a ton of cap room and a hole at center. But there should be no shortage of teams with interest in Mack, particularly since this year’s free agent market isn’t exactly overflowing with centers capable of starting.
With Mack now a week away from hitting the open market, the Browns risk losing two solid starters on their offensive line. Right tackle Mitchell Schwartz is also eligible for unrestricted free agency, and is expected to gauge his value around the league next week. While one or both linemen could ultimately re-sign with Cleveland, it’s worth noting that Browns personnel head Sashi Brown said last week that if the team were to work out a new contract with Mack, it would likely happen before the center’s opt-out deadline.
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