Pouncey Contract Impacts Alex Mack, Browns in Big Way
The Miami Dolphins signed Mike Pouncey to a contract extension of 5 years and 52.15 million, with $22 million guaranteed according to SI. That is a lot of money for Pouncey, who has only 4 years experience in the NFL. Pouncey has made the Pro Bowl and is considered one of the better interior offensive linemen in the league. To help his team out last year, Pouncey played guard instead of center.
A little nugget from the SI report that is impactful for the Cleveland Browns:
"The deal will make Pouncey the highest-paid center in the NFL. Alex Mack of the Cleveland Browns was previously the NFL’s highest-paid center, earning $8.8 million per season."
The $8.8 million that Mack signed last year with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and was matched by the Browns, made him the highest paid center in the league. Mack’s deal was also for 5 years but over $10 million dollars less. That is a lot of money when comparing contracts signed 2 years apart.
One thing that really sticks out is that Pouncey negotiated such a big deal before he was even a free agent. A player in free agency almost always gets more money, supply/demand principles, than those who get locked up early through extensions. Mack was a Transition Tag player last year but any team could sign him without being worried about losing any draft considerations. Pouncey pulled that big money deal while still having another year under contract.
Pouncey’s deal could have a big impact on the Browns and Mack. One of the little details of Mack’s offer sheet with the Jags was his ability to opt out after this season, as detailed here by Dawgs By Nature:
"After the 2015 season is over, Mack will have the option to void the final three years of his contract. However, if he decides to void his contract, he loses out on $8 million that is guaranteed. According to Joel Corry of CBS Sports, that $8 million becomes fully guaranteed on April 5, 2016. If Mack wanted to opt out of his deal, he would do so long before that so he could take part in free agency."
As DBN wrote their article right after Mack signed, opting out of $8 million guaranteed as a center seemed a bit foolish. Now, with Pouncey getting over $10 million while not on the open market, Mack is almost certain to opt out of his contract. Only injury could play a role in him sticking around.
That leaves the Browns in a unique position. They obviously value their offensive line. They saw last year how important Mack was to their team, since the offense basically fell apart when he got injured. Yet they also value cap space, reasonable spending and flexibility. If Mack opts out it could create a big decision for the team.
One of the unique parts of the Mack contract is his opt out date. As DBN notes, he has until April 5th. One reason for that is that Mack can wait to opt out until after the Franchise/Transition Tags are due. Basically his agent created a situation where the Browns will not be able to Tag Mack to make sure he stays in Cleveland. Smart play for the player there.
If/when Mack opts out of his deal after this season, as long as he is healthy, the Browns can start thinking about paying him $11 million a season. Mack has been a part of continuous losing here in Cleveland and may want to find a team closer to winning that also will pay him. That wasn’t the case with the Jaguars but the Transition Tag limited his options. Will the Browns be willing to pay two offensive linemen, Joe Thomas and Mack, over $11 million a season?
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The Browns can start to hedge their bets starting in the NFL Draft this year. There are quite a few centers, starting with Cameron Erving in the mid to late 1st round, who the Browns could draft. Drafting a versatile player, Erving is the peak of that, would give them some flexibility if Mack returns.
Either way the Pouncey contract has a big impact on the Browns and Mack. Mack can start counting his money, as long as he is healthy, at the end of the upcoming season. The Browns now have a starting point for what they will have to pay their All Everything Center if they want to keep him around.
Looking at the Mike Pouncey contract, what do you think Alex Mack’s future with the Cleveland Browns is?