After the Cleveland Browns hired Hue Jackson to be their next head coach, we pondered whether that meant the team might be able to retain a few of their top offensive linemen, including center Alex Mack. As everyone knows, Mack has a decision coming up on whether he wants to exercise his opt-out clause or not.
Previously, reports indicated that he would wait until after the Pro Bowl to make a decision, presumably to consider how the team's front office and coaching situation would turn out. At least in that regard, it seems like the Browns have passed the test, according to Mack at the Pro Bowl this week:
"I mean, it was good to leave the season, take some time off and let that all shake out," Mack told Around The NFL on Thursday. "Really happy they got everything handled early and they found their guy. They're getting a staff together quickly. It's going in the right direction. ... I think they've got good things going in the right places."
Mack could opt out of his contract, but that doesn't mean he is leaving Cleveland. His $8 million salary in 2016 becomes fully guaranteed on April 5, 2016. He is set to make $8 million in 2017 and $8 million in 2018, in which each year includes up to $2 million guaranteed if he remains on the roster at a certain point. He's already the fourth-highest paid center on average in the NFL, so we're talking peanuts in terms of overall contract value if he tries to get more money elsewhere.
If Mack can't get more elsewhere over the next three years, but he wants to stay in Cleveland, why would he consider opting out? There are two reasons. First, he can try to pry some more guaranteed money from the Browns, something which players usually get at the start of a new contract over their first several years. Second, he can try to reach a new long-term deal, so that he has a little more insurance down the road. Even if the Browns end up saying "no" to Mack, another team will, at a bare minimum, pay him the same deal he's currently getting in Cleveland. So it's almost a win-win for him to opt out.