Alex Mack was given the transition tag by the Browns, who are on the hook for $10 million this season if he remains with Cleveland. PFT has a story up about Mack's flirtations with Jacksonville. Here's the money quote:
A source told PFT the Browns would match an offer sheet with $22 million guaranteed to Mack "in a second." It indicates the importance Cleveland feels in keeping one of the league’s best centers in town.
Some seem to think that Cleveland applied the tag with the intention of meeting whatever offer Mack fielded. The idea is that Cleveland is letting some other team do the actual work of writing a contract that Mack found to be acceptable. I don't buy it. Cleveland could have easily offered terms Mack could accept; the Browns had a lot of cap space at the start of free agency. By letting Mack shop his services the team is taking the risk that some other AFC team will offer Mack either more than the Browns are willing to pay or offer it in such a way as to hamstring Cleveland's cap in this or a later season. Allowing someone else to set the market for Mack was, in my view a mistake.
The Bills have a gaping hole in the interior line. Signing the 74th (PFF) ranked OG doesn't really solve the problem. With the cap projected to increase dramatically in the fairly near future ($150 million 2015, $160 million 2016), why not force Cleveland's hand by making Mack an offer? The Browns may or may not choose to match a 6 year/$50 million deal with $35 million guaranteed. If they do then that deal lands on Cleveland's cap. If they don't then Buffalo has a pair of upper tier inside linemen in Wood and Mack.
I'm sure you recall that the team balked at paying Levitre just last season. Why would the Bills change course now? First, Buddy Nix - the guy who had final say on contracts and limited appreciation for guards - is gone. Second, the Bills saw first hand that plugging scrubs into starting roles is not a recipe for success. Third, with the cap set to increase - it was projected to remain flat for several seasons when Nix let Levitre walk - which means that $8 million for an interior lineman will be close to the norm by the end of the deal I suggest offering to Mack. Fourth, dumping Pears and Legursky, both of whom remain on the roster, would free up almost $4 million in cap space...or about half of the cost of the Mack deal. Mack >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Legursky. Fifth, it would eliminate a draft hole that the team needs to plug.
The worst case is that the Browns match the offer and have to pay out the contract for Mack's services.