The Cleveland Browns are facing the possibility of losing center Alex Mack to free agency and limited options to replace him on the field.
While it came as no surprise that Cleveland Browns center Alex Mack opted out of the final three years of his contract on Wednesday to become a free agent, that doesn’t mean the Browns have an easy solution in hand.
The easiest path is to simply suck it up and sign Mack to a contract that makes him the highest paid center in the NFL, which is what he is most likely going to be, whether it is in Cleveland or somewhere else. With around $48 million in salary cap space, that is a realistic option for the Browns, especially since Mack may be open to staying in town.
“For the first time in his career, Alex is a free agent,” Tim Younger, one of Mack’s agents, told ohio.com via email. “He has earned the right to choose his next spot — and returning to Cleveland is certainly very possible. He is connected here. That’s why it was important to him to visit last week, and he enjoyed his visit.”
A new deal for Mack will reportedly make him the league’s first $10 million a year center, surpassing the deal of current Miami Dolphins’ center Mike Pouncey, who is the current top-paid center with an average annual salary of $8.95 million. Mack is tougher and better than Pouncey, so giving Mack a contract that exceeds Pouncey’s should not be an issue.
However, if the Browns pay Mack it could make it difficult to come up with a contract to keep right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, who is also scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent when the new league year begins on March 9. But, similar to the situation with Schwartz, the options of replacing Mack are not that enticing.
If we have seen the last of Mack in a Cleveland uniform, here are five options the Browns can look at to fill the huge hole in the center of the line that Mack will leave behind.