The curious case of Alex Mack.
The problems with the Mangini-era drafts have been well documented. (Not even gonna link.) But less widely acknowledged is that he won the Sanchez trade.
The actual trade was the Browns’ #5 pick in 2009 (Sanchez) for #21 (Mack), #52 (Veikune) plus Jets vets Coleman, Ratliff, and Elam, plus two trade-backs for late picks (Davis and Francies). Never mind that the Seahawks saved Mangini from himself by taking Aaron Curry at #4. Never mind that he traded #17 (Freeman) for the #19 (Maclin) before settling on #21. Seems foolish to talk about Percy Harvin being taken with the pick after Mack… can you imagine Harvin in the Shurmur offense? Hell, never mind that six of the seven players coming the Browns way are no longer factors in the league.
Alex Mack straight-up for Mark Sanchez is a win.
Since 2009 Alex Mack has started every game at center for the Browns. That’s 48 in a row; rather a major accomplishment for an NFL player. In so doing, Mack has gained a reputation as being one of the top five centers in the league. We won’t cite the pro-bowl appearance since that was an injury-replacement on the third team. But still pro-bowl appearance and effectively 4th team AFC center in his second year. In short: Mack has done all that could have been expected from him. In fact, he’s exceeded reasonable expectations. (Here’s one re-draft of the 2009 first round that rates only Brian Cushing ahead of Mack for best value.)
Mack is a UFA at the end of this year.
Why are the Browns’ dragging their feet in extending his contract? Why are the Browns leaving the door open for him to leave as a free-agent?
I’m not the guy who pours through the game tape looking at footwork, push, low center of gravity, knee bend, and explosive hands. And don’t even start with the fluid hips talk, I have enough of an internal struggle with hand-size measurements.
No I prefer to find reputable evaluators and defer to them. If that means the dreaded Pro-Football-Focus ratings, so be it. Matt Miller is one such resource. Here’s rating of centers Bleacher Report12 : Alex Mack #4. It goes:
1. Chris Myers, Texans
2. Mike Pouncey, Dolphins
3. Max Unger, Seahawks
4. ALEX MACK, Browns
5. Jonathan Goodwin, 49ers
6. John Sullivan, Vikings
7. Nick Mangold, Jets
23. Matt Birk, Ravens, retired. Well come back to this.
Not buying Miller? Here’s what Pat Kirwin has to say in his o-line ratings:
1. Maurkice Pouncey, Steelers
2. Ryan Kalil, Panthers
3. Chris Myers, Texans
4. Max Unger, Seahawks
5. Mike Pouncey, Dolphins
Honorable mention: Alex Mack
One more link and this one is to local DawgPoundDaily:
It is no secret that Alex Mack is the best center in the AFC North. The desire for certain areas of the national media to sell Maurkice Pouncey as a superstar simply by being the center of the Pittsburgh Steelers seems to have finally receded enough and sanity has returned to the realm. As solid Mack has been, he would probably be the first to say that he could have been better last year and expects to be great this year. Mack was called for nine penalties this past year, which is something he will want to work to reduce if not eliminate this coming year. For comparison’s sake, Mack had one penalty called against him as a rookie. More consistency at the guard spots flanking him would certainly help but he needs to play better. The other question facing the center position is who steps up should Mack get hurt this year.
So there’s some data and you can take it or leave it. You think Mangold is better? Fine. Kalil overrated? Fine. Not the point. I’m using them not to demonstrate Mack is better than either Pouncey.
I *am* saying Mack is consistently in the convo for best center in the league.
The market for centers in 2014: it won’t get cheaper.
Going back to one of the lists above, let’s overlay the contracts of these top centers and when they’re subject to hit free agency:
1. Chris Myers, Texans. avg. salary, 6.2m; UFA 2016.
2. Mike Pouncey, Dolphins. 2,3m (rookie contract); UFA 2015.
3. Max Unger, Seahawks. 5.1m, UFA 2017.
4. ALEX MACK, Browns. 2,.9m, UFA 2014
5. Jonathan Goodwin, 49ers. 3.6m, UFA 2014.
6. John Sullivan, Vikings. 4.3m, UFA 2017.
7. Nick Mangold, Jets. 7.2m, UFA 2018.
Throw in these two also:
Kalil, Panthers. 8.1m, UFA 2017.
Maurkice Pouncey, Steelers. 3.6m, UFA 2015.
The view from here is: Alex Mack is going to the best center on the market in 2014. Goodwin is the only other UFA in this class and while he rates highly, he benefits from Iupati and Boone as his guards. We’re all ok acknowledging those two guard are better than the Browns’ guards, right? Ok, good. And also, he’s 34.
Putting a finer point on it: Alex Mack will be the best and pretty much only UFA Center in the NFL next off-season.
In case you forgot: the Browns’ cap space lead is #1 and growing.
I shouldn’t have to remind anyone that the Browns are last in salary cap usage this year. With the Bengals’ extending of Carlos Dunlap Monday, the only other team even close to the Browns is no longer close to the Browns.
The Browns are a statistical outlier.3
(See below. If I’m calc-ing this right, the probability of the Browns being so far away from the mean is like 0.1%)
When I first raised my hand about this, back when the Browns were ignoring their six needs in free agency, back when ten FA CBs over 6-0 were signed, back when Dustin Keller was accepting one year contracts… when I first raised this question the response was:
They’re being smart. They have to extend Mack and Ward (UFA 2013) plus probably Taylor and Haden. And don’t forget the draft picks have to be signed.
“Ok, fine,” I said.
Welp. Here we are mid-July. Not a breath about of contract negotiations Mack or Ward. One draft pick is signed. A Mingo deal,, excuse me,, the SLOTTED Mingo deal is being held up due to ‘offset language’ in spite of the fact that the #5 and #8 draft picks have signed contracts without offset.
So. We have something so obvious that I feel like I must be missing something.
Kinda feels like someone wants to be the smartest guy in the room.
I’m getting tired of it. This is easy and you’re being stupid, Joe Banner:
1. We have a reliable center, possibly/probably a top-end center. An experienced ‘quarterback of the o-line.’
2. We have more cap space than anyone.
3. Mack already has leverage and will only get more leverage after having ‘proved himself.’ He will be the only top-end UFA Center next off-season.
S-I-G-N H-I-M N-O-W.
Before it’s too late. If it’s not already too late.
Needs to prove himself. Lol.
I’ve had some back-and-forth with some insiders indicating that Berea isn’t sold on Mack. That he needs to show that he can be more physical.4 And isn’t that reasonable Kanick you mouth-breather?
You’ve got four years of proof. You’ve got 48 starts; will be 64 at end of year. You’ve got high ratings while playing next to soft guards. You supposedly have the NASA big-data analytics team… maybe take them off the fan-experience focus group project and give em a subscription to pro-football-reference.
No, Alex Mack doesn’t need to prove himself to the Browns. He now needs to prove himself to the league. Once he does, then you, Joe Banner, need to prove yourself to him. Good luck with that.
How does this play out?
You know how this plays out.
Could be that Mike Munchak will continue his jihad to create the greatest offensive line that ever was or will be. The Qarth of offensive lines. He paid big money for Levitre, he drafted Warmack. When in doubt, Munchak fills holes on the line and he has one at center.
But more likely is that the Ravens sign Mack because it would amuse them. I’ve predicted the Ravens would draft a center in the last two drafts to replace Matt Birk. They didn’t. So they’re going to war with a $19m/yr quarterback and 4th pick, never started a game before Gino Gradkowski, yes of the football Gradkowskis. Maybe that’ll work out. Or maybe Ozzie signs Mack to plug a hole and just for fun.
- Sidebar on Bleacher Report: it’s way past time to re-think the view of B/R as manipulative pagehit grabbers. They’ve stepped up their game in the past year. It’s time for the bloggy community I’m familiar with to re-evaluate their opinions on B/R. [back]
- Sidebar #2: Whoever this other Alex Mack is, she made the researching for this post a bear. [back]
- No really. The average of the data set ‘cap space’ is 9,848,777. Standard deviation, σ, is 7,139,694. If you’re outside two standard deviations you’re an outlier. The Browns are greater than 3σ. That means a 0.1% probability that their number could skew so far from the mean. Smartest guy in the room anyone? [back]
- This was in theobr forum several times with Lane Adkins and Brent Sobleski. [back]