If the Jacksonville Jaguars want to pry Pro Bowl center Alex Mack from the Cleveland Browns, they're going to have to come up with a substantial and creative offer to convince the Browns not to match a deal.
Or do they?
The Browns will reportedly match "almost anything" to keep Alex Mack, according to a report by Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. It was discussed on Sunday what kind of deal with would take to land Mack in another post, but Florio reports that a deal similar to the one proposed of around $22 million guaranteed in the first three years would be matched by the Browns.
"The Browns will match almost anything, that's why [the Browns didn't use the] franchise tag," the source said. "They hope some dumb team can sign him, they match and have him long term. . . . The only way to keep him long term is match someone else's deal."
The logic behind why the Browns would do this is flawed, at best however. The rationale is that the Browns chose to transition tag Mack this season so that he could be franchise tagged in 2015, which would effectively pay him the $22 million or so guaranteed in two seasons.
There's a few reasons why it's not that simple.
First, say Mack does sign the transition tag and ends up playing on the one year deal. Then he gets injured. Are the Browns really going to franchise tag him if he missed the majority of the season or has a major injury?
Fast forward to 2015 and this scenario. The Browns just spent $20+ million in back-to-back one year deals and then will be offering Mack, who will be 31 at this point, a long-term contract? Unlikely.
Florio's source also states that Mack would be "an idiot" to sign any offer sheets, because of the assumed $22 million he'd get over the two years with the transition and franchise tags, rather than the $22 million guaranteed over three years, as has been reported in the proverbial deal.
On the surface, sure. Mack would make more guaranteed money in two years rather than three, but he would be without the biggest thing players want and the biggest reason players hate the tagging system: Long-term security. Players want multi-year deals. Even if Mack is getting $22 million guaranteed over three seasons, that doesn't mean he's only getting $22 million. It could be more when you factor in base salary, workout and roster bonuses, as well as potential incentives and escalators.
Not only that, but to say that a team would be dumb to extend an offer sheet to Mack at this point in free agency is ridiculous. It's April 6th. Free agency opened nearly a full month ago. The major players are off the market and signed. The Jaguars would lose absolutely nothing at this point in the game working up an offer sheet if it's matched. You could make that point if this were March 15th and the Jaguars were losing out on other potential free agents because they were focusing on Mack, but at this point in the game it's risk-free and irrelevant.
In reality, Mack would be stupid to not sign an offer sheet if one is presented like the one that has been reported. He'd be getting the money regardless, but without the uncertainty of playing on tags.