On the eve of the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said that sources have told him that center Alex Mack will likely become a free agent.
“C Alex Mack is expected to opt-out of his contract, sources said. But a return to Cleveland on a new contract is a real possibility” Rapoport posted on his twitter account on Monday.
Mack has three years and $24 million left, including $8 million guaranteed on the original five-year contract that he signed with Jacksonville prior to the 2014 season and the Browns matched.
Mike Pouncey of the Dolphins is currently the highest paid center in the NFL after signing a five-year contract last season for $44.75 million, including $22 million guaranteed. Pouncey’s average annual salary is $8.95 million. Pouncey, like Mack is a three-time Pro Bowl performer.
The original contract Mack signed included a no-trade clause and an a provision to opt-out after two years. If Mack waits until after March 1 to void the contract, the Browns cannot place the franchise or transition tag on him.
The Browns can still re-sign Mack even if he enters free agency.
When asked about his future during the season, Mack would not divulge his mindset.
“I will say that winning is really important to me.”
The Browns finished 3-13, but Hue Jackson’s hiring has brought optimism to the Browns according to Mack's close friend and fellow Pro Bowl performer Joe Thomas.
Besides the possibility of losing Mack to free agency, right tackle Mitchell Schwartz will also hit free agency on March 9 unless he is re-signed to a contract extension or has the franchise or transition tag placed on him.
Offensive assistant Pep Hamilton admitted the thought of possibly losing Mack and Schwartz to free agency would be tough blows for the offense.
"I try not to think about it, but at the same time, I'm optimistic that things are going to work out,'' Hamilton said at his introductory press conference last Thursday.. "Just looking at what they put on film over the course of their careers across the board, those guys up front, it's exciting to see that the core, probably the most important component besides your quarterback of your offense, we have a strong group in place."