Earlier today, it was reported that Browns center Alex Mack will opt out of his contract and become a free agent when the new league year begins a week from today.
During his seven year career (all with the Browns), Mack has proven to be one of the best centers in football. He has started 101 games, missing time in only one of his seven seasons (he missed 11 games in 2014). A first round draft pick in 2009, Mack has made three Pro Bowls in his NFL career. In 2014, the Browns applied the transition tag to Mack and later used that right to match an offer made by the Jacksonville Jaguars, signing Mack to a five-year, $42 million deal. After just two years on that deal, however, Mack has utilized his opt out clause to become a free agent once again.
Back in 2014 when Mack had the transition tag, reports suggested that the Indianapolis Colts were interested in the center, while Mack also expressed interest in playing with the Colts and Andrew Luck. The Colts still have a need at the center position, so will they be interested in Alex Mack this time around?
My guess is that the team will have some interest. Mack is 30 years old, but he's still one of the better centers in football. The Colts know they need to address the interior of their offensive line, and the center position is the biggest need up front. Neither Khaled Holmes nor Jonotthan Harrison have impressed or shown that they can be trusted as the starting center moving forward, so it wouldn't at all be a surprise to see the Colts either draft a center or go after one in free agency - and the best center available in free agency will be Alex Mack.
Of course, as is common in decisions like this one, a lot of it comes down to money. The deal that Mack just opted out of was set to pay him $8 million in each of the next three seasons, so he's could be looking for even more than that on a new deal and with an increased salary cap. The top-earning centers, such as Mike Pouncey, Rodney Hudson, Maurkice Pouncey, and Ryan Kalil, have deals that average more than $8 million per year, so I'd expect Mack to command a similar contract. Furthermore, when you consider that just two years ago it was the Jaguars who offered Mack a big deal that was matched by Cleveland, the Jaguars again make sense. The team could use a center and they have a ton of cap space, so if they really want Mack they will be able to offer him a deal that the Colts can't or won't match. The Colts have enough room to make the move, but doing so could jeopardize the other moves that need to take place. Ryan Grigson has already stated that the Colts will have a different offseason approach this year and won't be as aggressive in free agency, as they want to re-sign some of their own first and foremost (including a long-term extension for Andrew Luck).
I think Alex Mack makes a lot of sense for the Colts, as he would address their biggest weakness along their line and would present a big move as the team tries to address the offensive line, but I simply don't see the Colts paying Mack the type of contract he's likely to command this offseason.