For a few months now, we've been pretty convinced that C Alex Mack will opt out of his contract. What has started to change, though, is the belief that after opting out, there is a good chance that he'll still sign a new deal with the Cleveland Browns, something that Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network corroborated on Monday:
#Browns C Alex Mack is expected to opt-out of his contract, sources said. But a return to Cleveland on a new contract is a real possibility— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 22, 2016
Mack still has about a week and a half to declare his decision (by 4:00 PM ET on March 4 to be exact). Tom Withers, who covers the Browns for the Associated Press, relayed some clues from his last conversation with Mack, in which the veteran center hinted that he's not dying to leave Cleveland:
In my last chat with Alex Mack, he said staying with #Browns was strong possibility. "My friends are here. My house is here," he said.— Tom Withers (@twithersAP) February 22, 2016
Joel Corry, the former agent over at CBS Sports, speculates that Mack might be trying to get $10 million a year instead of the $8 million a year he made from 2014-2015:
Don't be surprised if Alex Mack tries to become NFL's 1st $10M per year center. He's made $18M over last 2 years. https://t.co/kBFnOglFCM— Joel Corry (@corryjoel) February 17, 2016
The Browns have the cap space to sign Mack to such a deal, but so do the Jacksonville Jaguars, who made a play for Mack a couple of years ago and are still in need of a center. When you factor in average salary, Mack has fallen to be the fourth-highest paid center in the league, behind the Pouncey brothers and Rodney Hudson in Oakland. I think Mack is going to want $10 million guaranteed this year and then an average of $9 million over the following three years -- which comes to a 4-year deal worth $37 million, about half of which could be guaranteed. Whether Cleveland likes it or not, they should give it to him.