Browns Pro Bowl center Alex Mack is relieved the drama caused by his contract situation ended last week.
Mack met with reporters today at the team’s headquarters to discuss the resolution of the ordeal.
After failing to strike a long-term deal with Mack, the Browns placed a transition tag on him last month to prevent him from hitting the open market as an unrestricted free agent. The Jacksonville Jaguars signed Mack to a five-year, $42 million offer sheet on Friday, but the Browns didn’t hesitate to match it and retain him.
Mack’s new deal includes $26 million guaranteed and gives him the right to void the contract and become a free agent after the 2015 season. The contract was designed to ensure Mack, 28, would not be susceptible to being tagged if he voids the deal after two seasons, and it also contains a no-trade provision. He is scheduled to make $18 million guaranteed in the first two years, and another $8 million guaranteed if he stays with the Browns for a third season.
Below are highlights from Mack’s interview with the media.
Can you address the reports about you not being happy here and being ready for a change of scenery?: “Something that’s real important to know is there’s a business side to football. I’m primarily a player, and I have an agent who does some of the other stuff. So when it comes out in stories or whatever else, it’s positioning. Business is business. All I can say is that I’m happy to be here, I’m excited to play football and I’m ready to work.”
If you’re happy to be here, why not just sign the transition tag?: “That was totally an option, and I think I’m happier with how it worked out now.”
Why?: “In terms of what you want in a contract. The business side of things, it’s tough. If it would’ve come to that, would’ve been here, would’ve worked hard, would’ve been happy.”
Why was it important for you to be able to void the contract after two years?:“It gives me a lot of power as a player, which is exciting. That’s something that may happen. It may not happen. Two years from now it’s a whole different story, and you can ask that question then.”
Is there something that needs to happen in the next two years for you to stick around?: “I’m here to win games. I’m here to work hard. That’s what we’re all about. That’s a question for two years from now.”
Has all of the turnover and the constant change worn on you?: “Absolutely. You don’t want to see change or turnover. It’s a lot going on. [Having said that, owner] Jimmy Haslam did a great job of taking a lot of heat and changing around the building and making some moves, but it shows that he cares. It shows that he’s ready to take some heat to make decisions he thinks he needs to make. So that’s exciting. That’s a good way to look at things.”
But you didn’t think coach Rob Chudzinski was going to get fired after last season, did you?: “No, I didn’t. But things happen. It’s a tough game.”
Do you want to see some stability in these next two years to see it’s not the same thing again?: “I think everybody wants some stability. Everyone is on the same page because everyone wants to show up here, work hard and win games. So everyone is working toward that goal and would like to see that happen.”
Before the Browns tagged you, Haslam, coach Mike Pettine, General Manager Ray Farmer and others made a trip to California to try to sign you to a long-term deal. Did that meeting change your opinion of the organization?: “It was a really good trip. They came out and to have them all show up and bring a real strong front, that was an exciting time, and, you know, I was excited about where this building was going. But still, there is a business side of things to handle.”
What was your reaction when the Browns used a transition tag on you?: “It was interesting. I think everyone had to go onto Wikipedia and start looking up what that was. But after I realized what it was, it was an interesting time and it definitely made an interesting and long offseason.”
Is it safe to say that without the transition tag you would not be back here?: “No, I don't think that’s it at all. It was going to be a discussion no matter what. They came out to California and they had a real strong argument, and it was going to be a tough choice in front of me and the transition tag made it more interesting.”
Describe the last month. Was it enjoyable?: “I will say that I'm relieved that it's behind me. Uncertainty and where you're going to be at, those kinds of things, it wears on you a bit. So I'm very happy to have it behind me, and I'm excited to play football.”
How involved were you in the talks?:“There was a lot of work done on my agent’s behalf. That’s why I hired an agent. I’m not an agent. I’m a football player. So I really trust them to do a lot of work for my position and look out for my interests. It was a group thing, but on the same hand I’m really happy to work with them.”
There was chatter along the lines of ‘Why would he want to go to Jacksonville.’ Do you have anything to say about that?: “Jacksonville, they brought me out and I had a really good visit. I was excited to see what they brought and when I signed the contract, I had to be OK with either way it went. It's a tough part of the game and it's the business side of things, and I'm happy with how it's worked out, though.”
Were other teams interested?: “Yes. I'm not going to go into it. There were some teams we were talking to and trying to get some things going. And that's behind us, and I'm happy to be a Brown.”
You’re now the highest-paid center in the NFL at $8.4 million a year. Is that a point of pride for you?: “I would say yes. I’m excited about that. I work hard and I’m going to continue to do that. It’s exciting, and I’m happy.”
Are you participating in the offseason workout program?: “I was here today working out and I have an offense to learn. I have work to put in, and I'm happy to be here and have teammates to hang out with.”