Browns place transition tag on Alex Mack

David Richard-US PRESSWIRE

Mack will have the option to negotiate a long-term deal with other teams, but the Browns will have the chance to match any offer.

The Cleveland Browns have elected to apply the rarely-used transition tag to center Alex Mack on Monday, just before the deadline to apply transition and franchise tags, the team announced.

Mack, 28, was scheduled to become a free agent this month as he reached the conclusion of the five-year, $12.2 million deal he signed as a rookie in 2009. However, the transition tag will pay the two-time Pro Bowler the average of the top 10 highest-paid offensive lineman. According to the NFL, that number is about $10 million, which is $1.6 million fewer than what he would have received if the franchise tag was applied, which is an average of the top 5 highest-paid.

The transition tag doesn't guarantee that Mack will remain in Cleveland though, as he will still be free to negotiate with other teams in free agency. However, if he does strike a deal with another team, the Browns now have the right to match the offer.

That means that any team negotiating a contract with Mack runs the risk of simply doing the contract negotiations on behalf of the Browns, who have plenty of room under the salary cap to accommodate a long-term deal for Mack.

If the Browns choose not to match an offer for Mack, they would receive no compensation in return. That differs from the franchise tag in that teams have the right to match a deal and receive two first-round picks in the event that they elect not to.

Earlier on Monday, Chris Pokorny of SB Nation's Browns blog, Dawgs By Nature, broke down why it was important to keep Mack with the team:

In five years with the club, Mack has not missed a single snap, even though there was a stretch during a season in which he had to have his appendix removed. When it comes to durability, Mack is the very definition of that, along with left tackle Joe Thomas.

The Browns have made it clear this offseason that finding a quarterback will be key, but how difficult will it be for that quarterback to survive if Thomas is the only reliable player blocking for him? You can't just go out and replace what Mack brings to the table in terms of pass protection, run blocking, and leadership. He would seem to have the quickness for what Kyle Shanahan wants to achieve on offense.

Mack earned a Pro Bowl bid in 2013 and was graded by Pro Football Focus as the fourth-best center in the NFL after finishing as the third-best in 2012.

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