The new league year and free agency doesn’t officially start until Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET, but the Atlanta Falcons are already in hot pursuit of yet another Cleveland Browns offensive lineman who is due to hit the free agent market. This time, according to Bleacher Report’s Jason Cole, it’s Pro Bowl center Alex Mack.
After contract talks between Mack and the Browns broke down in late February, Mack unsurprisingly opted out of the remaining three years on his deal and became a free agent. Although he could possibly re-sign with the Browns, one of the top centers in the NFL is garnering plenty of interest from around the league. The three-time Pro Bowler is expected to become the highest-paid center in the NFL and the first to average $10 million per year, according to cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot.
In Atlanta, Mack would be reunited with former Browns offensive coordinator and now Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Former Browns lineman Jason Pinkston, however, made it seem that Shanahan’s presence would be more hindrance than help in recruiting former Browns players.
@RyInCBus hahah no fn chance unless the money is just unreal
— Jason Pinkston (@JasonPinkstonOL) March 7, 2016
Browns head coach Hue Jackson made it clear that he values center play and would like to keep Mack in Cleveland, but the game is the game.
“You can put [center] up there with the quarterback when you have a guy like that who has played so well for so long. We understand the situation that he’s in, and he has a right to do what he’s doing right now.”
In case they cannot re-sign Mack, the Browns have expressed interest in Jaguars center Stefen Wisniewski, according to Cabot. The 26-year-old was drafted by Hue Jackson when he was the head coach of the Raiders in 2011. Oakland did not have a first-round pick that year, and drafted Wisniewski out of Penn State with their first selection (No. 48 overall).
The 6-foot-3, 305-pound lineman started for four seasons in Oakland, the latter three at center. The Raiders let him go in 2014 and he signed a one-year deal with Jacksonville in 2015. Jaguars offensive line coach Doug Marrone praised Wisniewski’s play last season.
“I think he’s done a fine job,” Marrone said. “He really came in and jelled well together [with the other players]. He’s really helped us out. It’s difficult to get through him when he is in pass protection.”
With free agency starting Wednesday afternoon, the Browns are in danger of losing two of their top three offensive lineman in Alex Mack and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz.