The Browns hoped that putting the transition tag on center Alex Mack would keep him in the fold for not only this year, but the future, as well.
However, Mack doesn’t sound like his time left in Cleveland, if any, might be for more than a year.
"It does put us in a good position," Mack was quoted in Wednesday’s edition of USA TODAY Sports. "It’s really good Cleveland likes me and wants me around. It could be nice to play for one year at the transition tag number. Without a doubt, they think highly of me."
Mack would be paid $10.039 million by signing the transition offer for one year by the Browns, which would make him the highest paid center in the NFL by close to $2 million. The Browns are hoping to be able to then sign Mack to a long-term contract. If Mack is signed to an offer sheet by another team, the Browns have the right to match any offer. The Browns are one of the teams that have the most salary cap space in the NFL and are expected to match any offer made to Mack.
If Mack doesn’t receive an offer better than the one-year transition offer of the Browns, he can simply sign the one-year contract and be in a similar situation after the 2014 season.
The Browns sent an entourage to California to meet with Mack that included Mike Pettine, Ray Farmer, Jimmy Haslam, Kyle Shanahan and offensive line coach Andy Moeller last weekend.
"That was a cool meeting," Mack said. "I got to sit down with the new offensive coordinator and line coach. They discussed their scheme, where we’re going and the plans for offense. That went really well. I think they liked what they heard from me or they wouldn’t have tagged me. It was fun to talk to them. Now, we just go from there. It’s nice to possibly play in a system that fits your skill set and sets you up for success. That’s what I got from that meeting."
The Browns took a risk by not placing the franchise tag on Mack as he could sign with another team and the Browns would receive no compensation. Under the franchise tag, the Browns would receive two first-round draft choices if Mack left. The financial difference between the transition tag and franchise tag is a little over $1 million.
Mack sounds like he is interested in testing the free agent market to see what the interest level is in him. He knows the Browns can match any offer made to him.
"I have to be comfortable with that," Mack said. "It’s their right. I have to weigh that into any potential decision. But I walked away from our meeting with the feeling it was a good meeting. Without a doubt, it’s not a bad thing to return to the Browns."
In the interview, Mack sounded like he’s looking on his time with the Browns in the rear view mirror.
"My time in Cleveland was interesting to say the least," Mack said. "It was never boring. But there is no guarantee anywhere you go. It’s not a given what happens in Cleveland now or for any other team.
"I like where my future is going," he said. "Mr. Haslam, he’s a really good owner. I got a really good feeling about him. He’s a direct person who knows what he wants to do. There’s something to be said of that. It’s now a clean slate."
It is believed there will be interest in Mack. His former offensive line coach with the Browns, George Warhop, is in the same position with the Buccaneers and his college coach, Jeff Tedford, is the Bucs’ offensive coordinator. Rob Chudzinski is with the Colts and they are looking for a center after cutting their starter, Samson Satele, Thursday. Ironically, the Colts signed former Browns linebacker D’Qwell Jackson and that could affect their salary cap space availability.
"We’ll see what happens," Mack said. "It’s tough to know. I don’t know how teams feel about me. I still have an opportunity to meet with coaches and experience free agency. That’s the goal. I like Cleveland; I know it. I like these new coaches. But there are other opportunities out there. You only get to play this game so long. Let’s see what else is out there."