BEREA—Sunday could be the last game for two key members of the Browns offensive line.
Pro Bowl center Alex Mack and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz can become free agents after this season.
Mack didn’t want to talk about his future with the Browns after the announcement was made he had made his third Pro Bowl last week.
He was asked about his future with the Browns as he has an opt out clause after this season. However, his response to the question did shed some light on his thinking.
“I will say that winning is really important to me,'' Mack said.
Instead of placing the franchise tag on Mack the Browns decided to put the transition tag on him and allowed the Jaguars to sign him to an offer sheet that the Browns matched. However, the deal signed by Mack was for five years, $42 million including $26 million guaranteed -- included a no-trade clause and an option to void the final three seasons of the deal.
The contract averages $8 million over the final three seasons, but Mack -- currently the fifth-highest paid center in the NFL at $8.4 million a year could be paid even higher on the open market given his third Pro Bowl appearance.
Mike Pettine acknowledged that the Browns could very likely lose Mack.
"He could (leave),’’ said Pettine. "We don't have much control over that. That's his personal decision. It's in his favor that he has that in his contract. We'll react accordingly. Alex Mack is a Cleveland Brown. We'd love to have him here and be a part of what we are doing, but that is a decision that will be made down the road."
The Browns were obviously thinking that Mack would opt out as they drafted Cameron Erving with the 19th overall pick. He played tackle and center at Florida State, but was projected primarily to be a center in the NFL. Erving has played both guard positions this season for the Browns, but has not played center.
Erving has struggled as a rookie and would be a big question mark if he is the projected center in 2016 trying to replace Mack.
Schwartz is finishing his rookie contract with the Browns after being a second-round draft pick (37th overall) in the 2012 NFL Draft. Schwartz has been in the shadows of Mack and perennial Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas. Schwartz has not missed an offensive snap since joining the Browns and was recognized earlier this season by Pro Football Focus as the top right tackle in the NFL in 2015. He made the PFWA All-Rookie team in 2012.
Schwartz didn’t want to talk about possibly being a free agent on Friday.
“You go home and hang out and that’s about it,” Schwartz said. “I think free agency is kind of you have to see what comes your way, only so much you can do proactively. Kind of a wait and see thing.”
Schwartz admitted he has thought about the possibility of playing his last game with the Browns.
“Obviously, it’s a thought, but once again, that’s something that is kind of out of your control to an extent,” he said. “I had a really awesome time here so if it is, it will be a little bit sad, leaving a lot of guys that I’ve played a lot of ball with. Obviously, Joe and Alex and (John) Greco having been here the whole four years and really teaching me how to play, how to be a pro stuff like that would probably be the hardest part.”