By Nate Ulrich Akron Beacon Journal
The Cleveland Browns ended their tug-of-war with the Jacksonville Jaguars by swiftly pulling Pro Bowl center Alex Mack back to Cleveland.
About four hours after news broke about Mack signing a five-year, $42 million offer sheet from the Jaguars on Friday afternoon, the Browns announced they would retain him by matching the offer. As a result, the Browns solidified their center position for at least the next two seasons and ended a saga that has featured twists and turns since they used a transition tag on Mack last month to keep him from becoming an unrestricted free agent.
The new deal makes Mack the highest-paid center in the NFL at $8.4 million a year, surpassing the $8.16 million per year Carolina Panthers center Ryan Kalil received in 2011. Kalil signed a six-year, $49 million contract, which included $28 million guaranteed and an $18 million signing bonus.
“I’m excited for both Alex and the Browns,” General Manager Ray Farmer said in a statement. “We have talked about keeping our own players and this is a positive for us. Alex is a quality person and player that truly brings to life what playing like a Brown means.
“The ending is positive for everyone. Keeping our young, good nucleus of players is vital for clubs and specifically the Browns, and therefore this is a good step. I’m excited for Alex and our football team as we continue to prepare for the 2014 season. The next step is the upcoming draft.”
The Browns had until Wednesday to match the offer from the Jaguars, but they did not hesitate. Armed with a league-high $29.6 million in salary-cap space compared with the Jaguars’ $25.1 million, the Browns had an advantage all along.
So Mack, 28, will return to the Browns under terms crafted by his lead agent, Marvin Demoff, and the Jaguars.