It has been a pretty fun offseason for Cleveland Browns fans so far, but the prospect of losing C Alex Mack is something that could put people on edge. As first reported by Alfie Crow of Big Cat Country, our Jaguars affiliate, Jacksonville met with Mack:
I confirmed with two separate sources that the #Jaguars have met/are meeting with free agent center Alex Mack.— Alfie (@AlfieBCC) April 5, 2014
A little bit later,
- The Jaguars' need a center after Brad Meester, who was drafted in 2000 and players for Jacksonville for 13 years, retired this past season.
- Mack flew in to Jacksonville on Friday and had dinner with general manager Dave Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley. He left Saturday morning without an offer sheet, but negotiations are "still ongoing," per various reports.
- The Browns have more than $30 million in cap space, while the Jaguars have around $25.1 million in cap space. Jacksonville has the ammunition to make Mack a very enticing offer, but the bottom line is that Cleveland still has the dough to match anything that Mack might potentially sign.
Unless Mack is "all about the money," there's no reason for him to really choose Jacksonville over Cleveland. Both teams have been in bad shape the past several years, but the Browns are closer to building a contending team, and Mack would also be paired with fellow All-Pro lineman Joe Thomas. Several people, including CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora, says that the Jaguars' interest in Mack is legitimate, but that the Browns seem persistent on wanting to keep Mack still:
The Jags have the cap and cash space to put together a tricky offer sheet though Browns very badly want to retain Mack, an elite center— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) April 5, 2014
League source estimated a Mack offer sheet would need to include "$22 million fully guaranteed over first 3 yrs of deal," to make Cleve pass— Ryan O'Halloran (@ryanohalloran) April 5, 2014
Though Alex Mack's visit with the Jaguars is over, there are ongoing discussions between the sides, source says.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) April 5, 2014
One more note on Mack: The Browns haven't been sitting idly on him. They've been trying to work out a multi-year deal.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) April 5, 2014
Some fans wondered why the Browns did not make a big-time offer sheet to players like CB Darrelle Revis and WR DeSean Jackson, or even lower-budget players like ILB Arthur Moats and DL Alex Carrington, and this might be the reason why: to be prepared in case a big-time offer comes for Mack.
Also, remember that if a team offers Mack a contract, the Browns actually have closer to $40 million in cap space -- the $30 million amount is counting his transition tag, which would vanish if the Browns matched an offer sheet that Mack signed. Adding to that, if the Jaguars front-load a deal for Mack, the Browns could also cut DL Ahtyba Rubin and trim $6.8 million off their cap this year to help pay for Mack.