Should the Cleveland Browns trade center Alex Mack?


Apr 30, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Cameron Erving (Florida State) poses for a photo with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected as the number 19th overall pick to the Cleveland Browns in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Browns general manager Ray Farmer pulled off a surprise by selecting Florida State offensive lineman Cameron Erving at No. 19 overall in the 2015 NFL Draft.  The versatile Erving started his college career as a defensive tackle before spending two-plus years at left tackle, then his final five games at center. Now he joins an offensive line that was already one of the strengths of the Browns.

“Playing left tackle at Florida State, (Cameron) played some of the better pass rushers you’ll see in this draft, whether it’s Vic Beasley (or) it’s Eli Harold,” Farmer said on the team’s website. “He played against those guys and you could see his athleticism and his ability to translate to the National Football League rather easily.”

The fact that Erving played multiple positions at Florida State is a positive, and adding depth is ideal – especially since the Browns had to learn the hard way last season when starting center Alex Mack broken his left fibula during a 31-10 beat down of the rival Pittsburgh Steelers.

Many have speculated that the Browns selected Erving as more or less an insurance policy in case Mack decided to opt-out of his contract after the 2015 season. The Browns were able to lock up Mack with a five-year, $42-million contract after the transition tag was used prior to the 2014 season. Of course, though, the devil was in the details of the deal. Mack’s base salaries are fully guaranteed for the first two years of the deal (2014 and 2015). After the upcoming season, 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.

Now lets look at some facts and answer a tough question:

The Browns drafted a player (Erving) in the first round that is versatile, but many national pundits have said he is, by far, a better player at center above the other positions on the line. Mack, a Pro Bowl center, is 29 years old and is coming back to the Browns in 2015 after suffering a lower leg injury that required surgery. In addition, he has the ability to walk away after the 2015 season.

So do you trade away your Pro Bowl center and start Erving before Mack has the ability to opt-out, running the risk of getting  nothing in return?

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Left tackle Joe Thomas told ESPN that even though he hasn’t personally talked with Mack yet, he thinks there’s a reason the center put that opt-out clause in his contract. He added that this upcoming season will be the Browns’ chance to prove all the things they apparently said to Mack during the recruiting process. In other words, Mack probably wants some sign that the team is moving the right direction.

Thomas further said that he thought the opt-out language in a player’s contract was a great thing, and that more players should start adopting the practice. Essentially it gives the players the power to walk if the team isn’t living up to their side of the bargain.

The Browns did not use a first-round pick on Erving with the idea of having him sit on the bench. Most likely, he pushes right guard John Greco or right tackle Mitchell Schwartz out of the starting lineup this fall. But he also provides insurance in case Mack leaves in free agency.

The question Farmer has to answer is whether or not he should cash in on that insurance policy before it maybe is too late.

If you were the Browns, would you look to trade center Alex Mack rather than risk losing him to free agency?