Two-time Pro Bowl center Alex Mack is on the list of priorities for new Cleveland Browns general manager Ray Farmer, who has elected to pursue re-signing the interior lineman, according to Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland.
Mack, 28, has started in each of the last 80 games for the Browns and has been a rock in the middle of the offensive line. However, he is less than a month away from reaching the free agency market where he would have a strong chance at becoming the highest-paid center in the NFL, possibly eclipsing the seven-year, $54 million deal that Nick Mangold received from the New York Jets in 2010.
That means the Browns will likely have to open up their pocketbooks in a big way to reach a long-term deal with Mack before he hits the open market. If not, the Browns could elect to give Mack the franchise tag designation that would essentially ensure he stays in Cleveland at the very least for the 2014 season
If Mack receives the franchise tag though, safety T.J. Ward cannot. The Pro Bowl safety is another offseason priority for Farmer, and the value of the franchise tag for the safety position is roughly $3 million less than that of offensive lineman, which means the Browns could perhaps save some money by giving Ward the tag instead of Mack.
Mack was a first-round selection in the 2009 NFL Draft out of the University of California and he has started every game since entering the league. He earned Pro Bowl trips in 2010 and 2013.