Perhaps Browns owner Jimmy Haslam feels optimistic that center Alex Mack, despite the interest shown in him by the Jaguars, isn't going to be leaving Cleveland anytime soon, but it sounds like Jacksonville is going to make life difficult for Haslam's squad.
That's because Mack, who was slapped with the transition tag by the Browns five weeks ago, has agreed to terms on a five-year offer sheet with the Jaguars, according to CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora.
Alex Mack has agreed to the terms of an offer sheet with Jags. Actual offer sheet not yet drawn up but will be shortly and then submitted— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) April 9, 2014
When the sheet is officially signed, the Browns will have five days to match the offer, but Mack is clearly interested in leaving the organization (via Jason La Canfora).
Though they hired Mike Pettine as the new head coach, the Browns' track record for success in recent years is pathetic. Since the Cleveland franchise was rejuvenated in 1999, it's had two winning seasons and only one playoff appearance.
Jacksonville, meanwhile, seems to be on the right track with second-year coach Gus Bradley and general manager Dave Caldwell, finishing the 2013 season rather impressively after a dismal 0-8 start to the year.
But could Jacksonville actually structure a deal that would make it difficult for the Browns to match? CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora writes, the answer is: quite possibly with some creative accounting and a wink-wink agreement.
Reports of $22 million guaranteed on a long-term deal won't be enough to scare off the Browns. The devil is in the detail. It's the length of the deal, combined with such high guarantees, that would truly make the Browns fret. Considering the Browns already have a one-year tender on the table for over $10 million -- crazy money for a center -- $22 million guaranteed over the course of a long-term deal is a palatable pill for the Browns to swallow.
So, how would a club construct an offer sheet in this new collective bargaining agreement, which precludes a poison pill?
Put together a two-year offer sheet for Mack that continues to reward him with the shockingly high salary of $10 million in 2014, and then, something like a base salary of $1 million in 2015 with a $15 million roster bonus due on the third day of the 2015 league year. That should more than do it.
That means Jacksonville would basically be guaranteeing Mack $26 million over two years, which, as La Canfora writes, is bascially elite left tackle money, even if it's for a really good center like Mack. But why wouldn't Cleveland match?
"Well, for one, they would be over a barrel," La Canfora wrote. "They already know Mack is less than thrilled about being hit with the transition tag, and if they matched this sort of offer sheet, they very well could be paying a center $26 million for two years, only to watch him walk out the door. That's an average of $13 million a season at a position where, as I noted, $8 million per year is the current high (Panthers center Ryan Kalil). For a team that hasn't been out of the cellar of the AFC North in forever, that is hardly on the cusp of competing and that is unsettled at quarterback, that's a crazy amount of money to spend on a player who wants out."
And if the Browns don't match, they'll lose Mack, and because it's the transition tag and NOT the franchise tag, Cleveland wouldn't get any compensation.
I'm beginning to think the Browns might have made a mistake in transition-tagging Mack.