Just a couple hours before the Cleveland Browns kicked off their 2013 season at home against the Miami Dolphins, a report broke from NFL insider Jason La Canfora that center Alex Mack is not open to negotiating a contract extension during the season, citing a league source.
Also, Browns standout C Alex Mack will play out his rookie deal. No contract talks; he's not open to deal in-season league source said— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) September 8, 2013
The news quickly flew under the radar as attention turned to the game and what was an abysmal performance from the right side of the offensive line.
Mack, a first-round draft pick in 2009, is in the final year of his rookie contract, which thanks to coming in prior to the rookie pay scale, was a $14.6 million deal over five years with roughly half guaranteed. It made him the fourth highest paid center in base salary this season.
Mack earned every penny of it thus far. The 27-year-old veteran has started all 65 games, including yesterday, since entering the league five seasons ago. He did well right out of the gate and despite playing on only losing teams, under three different head coaches, three different offensive schemes, and consistently bad quarterbacks, Mack made the Pro Bowl in 2010 and has quietly become one of the best centers in the NFL.
He deserves another payday. So, even if this move is purely about getting as much money as he can, he has every right to do that and no one should hold it against him.
Another factor to consider is that he may simply not want the distraction. During that same 2011 season, he saw first-hand how constant contract talk affected former Browns RB Peyton Hillis. Appendicitis is a little more serious than strep throat.
Some of the area beat writers, however, think that Joe Banner may be less convinced. Banner's given them another idea:
Is that classic NFL executive bargaining or is Banner preparing to let some good players walk?
We do know that the Browns have the most available cap space in the league at nearly $30 million, and they'll have to start spending it at some point. With the cap floor requirements, over the next four years, including this one, they'll have to spend 89% of the total.
Yes, on Sunday they trotted that product you saw out there get completely and utterly embarrassed by Cameron Wake and the rest of that Miami Dolphins front seven, despite having that much cap room, plenty of incentive to use it, and months to prepare.
Flashing back to this situation, even great centers aren't exactly breaking the bank. It's one of the lowest paid positions on the line. Simply put, this team can afford to keep Mack and pay him well too.
He's also the only person on the offensive side of the ball not named Joe Thomas to play consistently well over the past several years. Following the catastrophe that was everything happening to the right of Mack on Sunday, keeping what is good about this o-line should be a priority.
Looking on the bright side, Browns GM Mike Lombardi said back in late July that Mack "fits the profile" of a player the organization would look to re-sign, per the Akron Beacon Journal.
"I think Alex certainly has proven that he’s a good player on and off the field," Lombardi said. "I think he stands for that, and I think he has the ability to continue to play well. So he certainly fits the profile."
Right now it's still a waiting game. The one thing we know for sure is that Mack won't be extended during the season.
With that said, if Mack eventually ends up in another uniform next season, don't blame him. Target your disdain at the front office.