CLEVELAND (AP) — Alex Mack was as good as gone. The Browns pulled back their Pro Bowl center in a snap.
Acting quickly after Jacksonville signed Mack to a five-year, $42 million offer sheet, Cleveland wasted little time and matched the deal for Mack, who will remain with the Browns for at least two more years.
The 28-year-old Mack will receive $26 million guaranteed in the deal, which he can void after two seasons. Also, the Browns are not allowed to tag or trade him. That's the steep price they'll pay for allowing another team to do their negotiating, and for letting one of their core players test the free-agent market.
"We have talked about keeping our own players and this is a positive for us," general manager Ray Farmer said in a release. "Alex is a quality person and player that truly brings to life what playing like a Brown means. The ending is positive for everyone. Keeping our young, good nucleus of players is vital for clubs and specifically the Browns, and therefore this is a good step."
Farmer was able to be upbeat at the conclusion of a strange saga that began when the club placed a $10 million transition tag on Mack at the outset of free agency. If they had lost Mack, it would have been yet another blunder by the Browns, who have lost at least 11 games in each of the past six seasons and are on their third head coach in three years.
They took a major risk in first letting Mack explore what his professional life could be like outside Cleveland. Then the Browns were in danger of losing him by permitting the Jaguars to structure a contract Cleveland might not be able to equal.
Fortunately for the Browns, they have salary-cap space and owner Jimmy Haslam had stated several times he was committed to keeping Mack, who has not missed a single snap in five seasons with Cleveland.
"I think we've made it very clear that he's the kind of person, the kind of player we want in our organization," Haslam said earlier this week.