Report: Alex Mack opts out of his contract to become a free agent
By Thomas Moore
Cleveland Browns center Alex Mack has opted out of his contract and will become a free agent, a potentially harmful blow to the Browns.
Cleveland Browns center Alex Mack has reportedly opted out of his contract and will now be a free agent, according to numerous media reports.
Mack had until Friday at 4 p.m. to exercise the clause in his contract, but apparently decided to avoid the weekend rush.
It has long been believed that Mack would exercise the opt-out clause, which was included in his contract when he signed an offer sheet with the Jacksonville Jaguars two years ago. Because former general manager Ray Farmer mismanaged the contract situation, yet another in a long list of negatives on his resume, the Browns are now dealing with the very real possibility that they will lose Mack along with right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, who is also an unrestricted free agent.
“We have the best right tackle and the best center in the NFL and I’d certainly like to keep those guys,” left tackle Joe Thomas recently told cleveland.com. “You’re not going to make your team better by getting a worse player at those positions. That’s my take but there are decisions that are made in football that are related to contract, that are unrelated to how good you are as a player or a person, so I can understand if things go differently. But I’d like them to be here obviously.”
A first-round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, Mack is a three-time Pro Bowler and has been a key contributor to an offensive line that is consistently one of the league’s best over the past few years.
While the Browns can make a pitch to keep Mack, and it has been reported that he is open to remaining in Cleveland, executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown addressed the issue at the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine and did not sound optimistic.
“My estimation would be if he’s going to be in Cleveland, we’ll get to a deal before his opt-out date,” Brown said.
The question now becomes who will the Browns be in competition for Mack’s services?
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The Jaguars have to be a consideration as they liked Mack two years ago, have an average offensive line and, most importantly, about $74 million in cap space. The Oakland Raiders may also be in play as they could use an upgrade over current center Rodney Hudson to help protect quarterback Derek Carr.
And, like the Jaguars, the Raiders have around $74 million in cap space.
Mack claims he wants to play for a winning team, however, which would seem to rule out the Jaguars but could put the Raiders in play.
If he is strictly looking for teams that have money to spend but who, unlike the Browns, have their current young quarterback in place, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tennessee Titans could come be contenders as well.
Even though the move was expected, it is still not a good start for the Browns as they prepare for the opening of free agency on March 9.