A lot of contract numbers have been leaked. While the numbers are all consistently close, I'm waiting to pass judgment on the deal until the actual numbers are known. I've seen too many contracts reported as worth $50 million when the last year of the $50 million was a $24 million salary that was never expected to be paid in the first place and only put in the deal to make the player and agent feel good about getting $50 million.
That being said, there are nine more items to fill here so ... If the deal is as reported -- five years, $42 million, $18 million guaranteed the first two years -- it's a bit of a head-scratcher. Why Jacksonville would think that would scare the Browns into not matching is puzzling.
This is why I want to see the actual numbers. Because as reported, it's kind of a "Huh?" offer to a transition player.
Mack made the system work. Or his agent did. Regardless of where he plays, Mack will be the league's highest-paid center. That's a good offseason.
Which reminds me of one of my favorite stories about contracts, way back when baseball's arbitration system first began. Pitcher Dave Stewart was one of the first cases, and he lost. His comment after: "No problem. I was either going to wake up rich, or richer."
I'm not convinced Mack prefers to play in Cleveland anymore. The fact that he will sign with an organization that has struggled as much as the Jaguars have indicates he's ready to move on. That being said, if Mack returns I would not expect him to sulk. He's been a pro since he arrived, and if it turned out he'd be rich in Cleveland as opposed to Jacksonville, there would be no reason to wonder about his commitment or effort. He'd remain a pro.
If the Browns do choose to match, they'll have the core of their line for the next few years with Joe Thomas, Mack and Mitchell Schwartz in the fold. Yes, I said Schwartz. He's better than he's given credit for. Perhaps the Browns might wish to send the Jaguars a box of candy and a thank-you note.
Mack also becomes the second-highest-paid player on the team, behind Thomas. This is the argument against matching. With guys like Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron ready to be extended, and with Joe Haden at the head of the line, making the center that wealthy goes against the grain. Former NFL lineman Ross Tucker summed it up this way for the Sporting News: "It's not a difference-making position that has a huge impact on wins and losses." (LeCharles Bentley would no doubt disagree.) Consider that Mack's transition cost is more than $10 million. A respectable-to-good center or guard (with John Greco sliding to center) would cost half that much. Mack is a good player, but the sky won't fall if he's not a Brown this season and beyond.
Ask most anyone about building a team and they'll say the most important position is the guy who throws the ball, followed by the guy who stops the guy from having the ball caught, followed by the guy who can get to the guy throwing the ball, followed by the guy who protects the blind side of the guy throwing the ball, followed by the guy who catches the ball. The order may change from team to team depending on talent, but that's the general list. That's a roundabout way of saying the list does not include a center.
So the Browns have to ask: Does it make sense to pay a center that much when they have so many of the "prime" positions lined up for extensions or deals in the future? Imagine, too, if Brian Hoyer proves to be the real deal. He is on the second of a two-year contract.