NFL teams looking for a top-of-the-line center got some good news on Wednesday when Alex Mack chose to opt out of the final three years of his contract with the Cleveland Browns. Mack, who still had $24 million remaining on his deal, is set to become an unrestricted free-agent.
Tim Younger, the agent for Mack, said that “Alex is definitely leaving open the possibility of returning.” So while the Browns will have a chance to bring Mack back, every other team in the league will have the chance to sign him too. For the San Diego Chargers, that should be a very appealing idea.
The Browns selected Mack in the first round of the 2009 NFL draft. Since then, he has become one of the NFL’s best centers, making the Pro Bowl three times. He has also been dependable, playing in 101 career games. He has played in all 16 games of a season in six of his seven years in the league.
The Chargers are in the market for a new center. Chris Watt struggled last season. Not only was he ineffective in the running game, but he also allowed entirely too much pressure up the middle, forcing Philip Rivers to throw the ball away or eat sacks. Adding a center like Mack would immediately transform the entire offensive line.
For the Chargers to sign him, they will have to shell out some bucks. But they have the cap room to do that. If the team wants a cheaper option, Stefen Wisniewski will be available as a free agent as well. But in Wisniewski, you’re not getting a player who can be dominant. You’re not getting a guy who can be one of the three or four best players on your team. With Mack, you are getting that.
The Chargers could also look to find a new center in the draft. Southern Cal’s Max Tuerk or Notre Dame’s Nick Martin could both be a fit in either the third or fourth round. But one of them should only be drafted after general manager Tom Telesco put forth an aggressive effort to sign Mack.
Rivers should be campaigning to the front office as we speak. He should be imploring Telesco to sign this guy. Not only could his signing afford him much more time to throw out of the pocket, it could lead to a huge bounce-back year for Melvin Gordon.
Mack had a clause in his contract to where the Browns could not tag him. He wanted to explore his options and choose the place where he is going to play next. Born in Los Angeles, playing in San Diego has to be an attractive option for Mack.
Telesco simply must make this happen.