Alex Mack: Atlanta Falcons’ target if he opts out of deal?

Aug 13, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns center Alex Mack (55) in a preseason NFL football game at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 13, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns center Alex Mack (55) in a preseason NFL football game at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

Alex Mack could end up opting out of his contract with the Cleveland Browns. Would the Atlanta Falcons target the elite center if he hits free agency?

According to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, Cleveland Browns center Alex Mack is likely going to opt out of his contract with the Browns to potentially sign somewhere else as a free agent. Mack has played his entire seven-year NFL career with the Cleveland Browns who drafted him in the first round out of California in 2009.

Despite Cleveland being a 3-13 football team in 2015, the Browns had arguably the best offensive line in the game with Alex Mack at center and perennial All-Pro Joe Thomas at left tackle. Mack is 30 and probably wants one last great payday before calling it a career. He could end up in free agency commanding $10 million, the most ever by a starting center in the National Football League.

Alex Mack does have loyalties to the Cleveland Browns and reportedly favors North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz over his alma mater’s Jared Goff for whom the Browns should select at No. 2 in the 2016 NFL Draft to become the franchise’s next starting quarterback. However, winning is also important to Mack and the Browns don’t exactly do a fine job of winning on the gridiron.

Should Mack opt out of his deal on March 4th before the start of the new NFL calendar year on March 9th, expect the Atlanta Falcons to stand as one of the teams most vying for Alex Mack’s services. The Atlanta Falcons, like the Cleveland Browns, had a top five offensive line in the NFL in 2015, but Atlanta could seriously use an upgrade at center.

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Center has long been an issue for the Atlanta Falcons after general manager Thomas Dimitroff elected to go with Peter Konz over longtime starting center Todd McClure after the 2012 NFL season. McClure retired and Atlanta has had difficulties ever since trying to keep the pocket’s integrity intact.

While Alex Mack is 30 years old and would command a ton of money at a non-skill position, perhaps he is exactly what the Atlanta Falcons are looking for on their offensive line. Mack has already spent a year in Kyle Shanahan’s West Coast offense and zone blocking scheme, as he was the starting center when Shanahan was the Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator in 2014.

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Mack would join two up-and-coming talents at tackle in left tackle Jake Matthews and right tackle Ryan Schraeder in Atlanta. With the Atlanta Falcons being one of about four or five teams that could conceivably end an NFC Playoffs drought in 2016, the Falcons could remedy all the losing Mack had experienced playing for the Browns.

It’s no secret that center is one of the handful of positions the Atlanta Falcons will look to upgrade this offseason, either through the 2016 NFL Draft or through free agency. While the Atlanta Falcons could target a potential starting center in rounds two through four in the NFL Draft, wouldn’t they almost rather sign Alex Mack than draft a player that could hopefully one day become an Alex Mack type?

In all honesty, the Atlanta Falcons could and should do both. They should look at acquiring Alex Mack as a top priority free agent in the 2016 offseason should he hit the open market. Atlanta should also look at getting an interior offensive lineman in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft.

One player that compares favorably to Alex Mack is Notre Dame’s Nick Martin, whose older brother Zack Martin stars at guard for the Dallas Cowboys. The younger Martin brother potentially start at guard and play alongside Mack in Atlanta his first few years in the league, as both Martin brothers have the skill sets to play all three interior line positions at a very high level.

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Depending on if Alex Mack does test free agency this offseason and how strong his ties are to the Cleveland Browns organizations, just thinking about him potentially becoming a free agent should entice Atlanta Falcons fans to get on the Alex Mack train should he enter the open market. Hopefully the Atlanta front office agrees and believes that he could take a great offensive line and make it elite in 2016.