Report: Mack voids his contract

Published 3:04 am Thursday, March 3, 2016

CLEVELAND (AP) — Alex Mack snapped the ball into the Browns’ court.

The three-time Pro Bowl center voided the final three years of his contract and will become a free agent, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press on Wednesday. He will be eligible to sign with other teams when NFL free agency opens on March 9, but Mack can still re-sign with the Browns, and that is “very possible,” said the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

Mack had until Friday to opt out of his contract.

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One of the league’s best interior linemen, Mack was set to make $24 million over the next three years on the deal he signed with the Browns in 2014.

He will certainly draw interest from other teams if the Browns don’t re-sign him before he hits the open market. Mack could command a $10-million-per-year contract.

Cleveland’s revamped front office and coaching staff view Mack as one of the team’s leaders and would hate to see the 30-year-old leave. He recently met with new coach Hue Jackson to discuss the team’s plans going forward.

Last week at the scouting combine in Indianapolis, Sashi Brown, the team’s head of football operations, expressed doubt Mack would stay with the Browns if he opted out.

“My estimation would be if he’s going to be in Cleveland, we’ll get to a deal before his opt-out date,” Brown said. “Alex obviously is a very talented center, been a stalwart on our offensive line for a long time. We’ll see kind of what his decision ends up being.”

Mack has expressed his desire to play for a winning team and he’s yet to experience that in Cleveland; the Browns are 33-79 since he arrived in 2009. However, Mack has roots in Cleveland. He likes the area, has grown close to several teammates, and could wind up playing with fellow California alum Jared Goff, a quarterback the Browns are considering with the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft.

Mack was able to secure a five-year, $42 million contract, which included $18 million guaranteed, from the Browns two years ago after the club used the transition tag on him. Jacksonville signed Mack to an offer sheet, which the Browns matched.

His value to the Browns was never more evident than in 2014 when he broke his leg early in the season and missed 11 games. Without Mack, Cleveland’s offense fell apart.

Before breaking his leg, Mack showed remarkable durability by not missing a single snap since his rookie year and returning to the field just days after undergoing an appendectomy in 2011.

To protect themselves in case Mack leaves, the Browns drafted versatile lineman Cam Erving with the No. 19 overall pick in 2015. However, Erving, who played center at Florida State, struggled while filling in at guard as a rookie and it’s not known how he fits into Cleveland’s plans.

The Browns are also hoping to sign some of their unrestricted free agents, including right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, wide receiver Travis Benjamin and safety Tashaun Gipson.