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How Does Alex Mack’s Contract Impact Negotiations With Maurkice Pouncey?


The Cleveland Browns hardly flinched before agreeing to match the offer sheet that center Alex Mack signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars, despite that offer sheet containing language that gives the player the ability to void the last three years of the five-year contract, which just so happens to contain a front-loaded guaranteed money value.

The Browns gambled this offseason, perhaps in part through necessity, by placing the rarely used transition tag on Mack, which only grants the team the right of first refusal to match any contract offer the player is given.

The organization was going through one of its seemingly yearly makeovers, firing their head coach, general manager, and CEO. The resultant job searches put some of their free agency plans on the back burner, which included tabling contract discussions with Mack, who was certainly their biggest free agent to hit the market.

After the dust finally settled, the Browns have now signed Mack to a long-term deal with the help of the Jaguars, though as previously mentioned, whether that deal winds up long-term down the road hinges more on Mack than it does on the Browns.

The question for Pittsburgh Steelers fans, of course, is how this might affect potential negotiations with center Maurkice Pouncey, who was named to the Pro Bowl in his first three seasons in the league before missing just about all of last season with a torn ACL and is now entering the final season of his rookie contract.

No doubt the eventual contract negotiations will feel the ramifications of Mack’s deal regardless of whether they end up taking place this season—which is far from guaranteed—or next season.

The contract that Mack signed makes him the highest-paid center in the league, now edging out the six-year, $49 million contract signed by Carolina Panthers center Ryan Kalil back in 2011, which paid out $24 million guaranteed.

Mack’s new contract, however, will likely be the new benchmark, with its average annual payout in the vicinity of $8 million. I am of the mind that the Browns matching the contract is a negative for the front office in future negotiations.

Most readily, the Browns choosing to match the contract obviously means that there were at least two teams ready and willing to pay a center that salary, even under terms favorable to the player regarding control over the life of the contract.

As much as many may argue that Pouncey is overrated and that his shoes were easily filled by journeymen in his stead last season (the merits of said arguments I will not debate), there is no disputing that he has the hardware, having earned All-Pro respect in every season in which he’s been healthy. You can bet that his agent is well aware of that.

The biggest ball to drop, of course, is Pouncey’s knee and how he responds on the field. Until he proves that he hasn’t missed a beat on that knee, he’s currently at a negotiating disadvantage, whether or not it might be slight.

If the two parties choose to negotiate later this summer, it will be based largely on projections. If Pouncey wants to gamble on himself and try to have another All-Pro season on that knee for greater leverage next season—to cement the argument that he deserves to be the highest-paid center in the game—then Mack’s contract, and the fact that at least two teams were willing to match it, will be the starting point of the negotiations.

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About Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • JAMESH

    I wish this discussion was about our LT instead of our Center.

  • pittsburghjoe

    Pouncey is the Steeler’s version of Tim Tebow. Over-rated, over-appreciated, and under performing. The Mack deal may be the best thing that’s happened to the Steelers. There is no way they pay this guy. Who does he think he is, Dermonti Dawson? I’m sure he and his agent will put him somewhere between Dawson and Webster.

  • joed32

    Tim Tebow???????????

  • JAMESH

    I guess when Pouncey passes it looks like he is trying to heave a cinder block…

  • JAMESH

    … unless it is against the Steelers in a playoff game…….

  • Eric MacLaurin

    I may be confused but isn’t the knee just the latest? My impression is that he has struggled staying healthy and top dollar should be for players who don’t get hurt.

    What percentage of games has he played in since drafted?

  • pittsburghjoe

    It’s not a postion comparison…. I’m just saying he get’s too much good press for nothing more than mediocre performance.

  • dgh57

    Who are you to judge what we have in Pouncey? Are you some kind of a Professional Talent Evaluater that has visually watched every snap he has taken and have you watched miles of tape like the Coaches and Scouts have? Do you meet and talk to Pouncey everyday to get the sense of how he’s feeling and what went on on certain plays where he didn’t perform up to par? Believe me the team has done so and thus I’m going to take Tomlin & Co. take on the play of Pouncey and whatever decision is made I know that decision will come from a better source than what you’ll ever DREAM of becoming!!

  • Josh Knepshield

    Ok…Good for you dude! No one cares what you’re going to do, but it is widely know that Pouncey is one of the most overrated OL in the NFL…

  • AndyR34

    Pouncey has missed 18 regular season games in the last 4 years…15 last year. Mack has not missed a game in 5 seasons…but he plays for the Brownies.

  • AndyR34

    Widely known by whom, Josh? Show us some references…where has this been written other than some disgruntled Steeler fan on some blog? If you cannot show us…it’s all in your mind. Where’s the beef…show us some proof…otherwise you are just being irrationally emotional.

  • Jollyrob68

    He needs to stay health and if he does pay him,if not move on.

  • dgh57

    Oh really? Unless the rules have changed Pouncey’s was voted to multiple Pro Bowls by his peers, NFL Coaches, and fans and their words speak louder than a bunch of amateur GMs!

  • dgh57

    I agree, show us the beef!

  • Eric MacLaurin

    Missing a playoff game is even worse and playing for the browns should earn you more money.

    The talent is there but the risk is way too high for a long deal.

  • Ike Evans

    Guys saying they wouldn’t mind seeing pouncy leave are foolish….overrated lol compared to what? Mike adams marcus gilbert beach and foster? Stop it…I’d be scared they couldn’t hit on another guy…

  • Game_Time

    I’ve never seen another team’s decisions to re-sign one of thier FA influence how the Steeler’s handle their negotiations. Over the years, I’ve seen the Steelers release great players (Joey Porter) to include Hall of Famer (Rod Woodson) if they felt they were over priced. Pouncey is indeed a good football player but hasn’t proven himself to be great let alone HOF material as of yet. So I don’t see the Steelers going over board when negotiating a new contract regardless of what other teams may be willing to pay him. If he over prices himself he will be in another uniform.

  • 1stepforward

    Well said. The question is, will they try to find out his price this off-season? If they do, and his price is higher than they value him, will they seek a trade?
    I would love to be a fly-on-the-wall of Colbert’s office right about now.

  • PoKey21

    This is what I have been saying. If Colbert thinks there is more of a chance that Pouncey walks instead if resigning next year it would be a shrewd move to send him off in the draft. Can’t hurt putting some feelers out there.

  • Rick Rogers

    As a rookie, Pouncey played off the charts well. Since then he’s been off the field way too often. Thank DeCastro for ending his season last year. Pouncey has made the bulk of his Pro Bowls largely on his rep not play. IMO he is not worth Mack money. Not sure Mack is worth Mack money. But that’s Cleveland. As a hedge, the Steelers should draft a center or consider bringing Velasco back if healthy. The center position is important, but good teams routinely get by with middle-of-the-road talent at the position.

  • pittsburghjoe

    Exactly. He has made his pro bowl on reputation, not play. The “Pouncey Sympathizers” are humerous to listen to, it must be something about the University of Florida, that brings this trait out in the casual fan. He is turning out to be the most polarizing Steeler.

  • pittsburghjoe

    Ike..not one but 2 street guys effectively replaced the guy. How can you argue this point?

  • pittsburghjoe

    Wow… what a hypocrite. I guess someone has anointed you as comment judge. I assume since you used the term “we” in your first sentence, you are part of the Steeler organization and not just a casual fan. I would like complement you on the Blount and Mitchell acquisitions. You are truely a very competent GM. Can you please draft a tall wide receiver and tall, fast CB?

  • John A Stewart

    Compared to himself Pouncey is overrated, soft and weak. When he was out Velasco and mean Wallace did a hell of job just ask the Steeler Nation.

  • Ike Evans

    Smh this the problem with you guys…with this organization

    Good but not great with potential to be more is better then AVERAGE….there are enough average ass players on this team….say wat you want about pouncy not living up to his first round billing or the pro bowl billing but he’s more then average when healthy…are you kidding me? This the type of shit that the browns do…not us…just because a guy isn’t meeting your expectations doesn’t mean he should be replaces with mediocre guys who have no expectations so they easily exceed them…stop it

  • steelersfan

    at this point i’d pass on giving him a huge contract

  • JAMESH

    Maybe we could “gift” the Brownies one of our OLine studs so they can fall on Mack and put him out for the season.

  • John A Stewart

    Sit Forster put Pouncey at guard I need Wallace nasty mean streak at center something Colon had minus his dumb flags.

  • Louis Goetz

    I’ll almost guarantee that virtually everyone who complains that Maurkice Pouncey is overrated or under performs has also complained about him supporting Aaron Hernandez. If you don’t like Pouncey because of the person you think he is, I can respect that. But let’s call a spade a spade. The guy is one of the best centers in all of football. You don’t get elected All Pro three years running if you’re just overrated hype. Go look at an All Pro roster and tell me who’s on there who isn’t the tops at his position. All Pro isn’t the same as the Pro Bowl.
    And as far as his injuries are concerned, maybe the guy could get through an entire season if the Pittsburgh Steelers would stop taking his legs out. In 2010 Flozell Adams took out his ankle. Willie Colon took it out in 2011. In 2012 Marcus Gilbert took his knee out. DeCastro took it out in 2013. All of his injuries have been the result of friendly fire. The guy’s not injury prone. You just can’t take a 300 pound guy and thrown him into Pouncey’s knee or ankle and expect him to stay healthy.
    The only problem I have with Pouncey is the money he’s going to command, especially now with what Alex Mack is getting. I’m no GM, but I can’t justify paying a center $10,000,000.00 a year when there’s a salary cap in place. It’s just too much of a team’s finite resources to spend on the position. You want to pay a top 5 LT 8-figures, fine. You want to pay a top 5 QB 8-figures, fine. No one else, not even a top 5 CB is worth that much money in the salary cap era.

  • dgh57

    Duh! The “we” stands for all of us who would rather leave the decision making in regards to Pouncey to those more in the KNOW! Obviously that leaves you out!

    Pouncey was only replaced by 2 street guys in your eyes. The plan at the start of the season was to run with the ZBS since both Poucey & DeCastro were healthy. Well that went out the door week 1 when Pouncey went down with his knee injury. Velasko and Wallace played good because they were playing in a scheme that best suits them and that’s the Power Scheme. If the plan is to move back to ZBS then both Velasko & Wallace are going to struggle with it because they aren’t athletic enough to pull like Pouncey would do. Your problem is you need to stand back and try looking at the whole picture instead of being so narrow minded!

  • Louis Goetz

    Some comparisons …
    In 2009, Alex Mack was drafted. He was selected to neither the Pro Bowl nor an All-Pro team.
    In 2010, Pouncey was drafted. Both he and Mack were selected to the Pro Bowl. Pouncey was the #2 Center. Mack was the alternate because Mangold did not play and Pouncey was in the Superbowl. Pouncey was also selected 2nd team All-Pro for the Associated Press.
    In 2011, Pouncey went to the Pro Bowl as the #1 Center, and was 1st Team All-Pro for both the AP and the Pro Football Writers Association. Mack was selected to neither the Pro Bowl nor an All-Pro team.
    In 2012, Pouncey went to the Pro Bowl as the #1 Center, was 1st Team All-Pro for the Sporting News, and 2nd Team All-Pro for the AP. Mack was selected to neither the Pro Bowl nor an All-Pro team.
    In 2013, Pouncey was put on IR after Week 1. He was selected to neither the Pro Bowl nor an All-Pro team. Mack was selected to the Pro Bowl as a back-up.
    Obviously, the Associated Press, Sporting News and Pro Football Writers Association have thought very highly of Pouncey, in addition to the coaches, players and fans who have voted him to the Pro Bowl. Compare Pouncey’s accomplishments to Mack’s and tell me what teams are going to offer him.

  • Nolrog

    42 million over 5 years, 26 million guaranteed (18 million over the first two years.) That’s a hefty haul for a center. Add that to DeCastro’s next contract in the near future and that’s a whole lot of money on the OL. Gotta take into consideration his injury history and how well he performs this year, but as of right now, I’d probably be looking at resigning Velasco and letting Pouncey walk. That could change if he stays healthy all year and has a monster year, so we’ll see.

  • Nolrog

    >>> Pouncey was in the SuperbowlPouncey wasn’t in the superbowl. He was injured in the AFC championship game (or at least came out in the AFC championship game) and Legursky played center in the Super Bowl.

  • dgh57

    You better believe it Valasko & Wallace thing is over hyped!

    What these narrow minded fans seem to forget is that Velasko & Wallace were playing in the Power Scheme which apparently better suits their skill sets. If the plan is to move to the ZBS then you want the most athletic Center you can find and that’s Maurkice Pouncey!

    Depending on how his knee heals expect a Pouncey extension sometime in the future!

  • dgh57

    That’s easy to argue with just read my comment below to Ike!

  • Farnsworth

    Way to freak out over someone’s opinion.

  • dgh57

    Let me just say that hearing the seemingly endless dogging of Pouncey was getting seriously OLD in my book.

  • Louis Goetz

    You’re right, I should’ve written: Mack was the alternate because Mangold did not play and Pouncey, as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, had advanced to the Superbowl and was not eligible to play in the Pro Bowl, which was held on the Sunday in between the Conference Championship games and the Superbowl.

  • Farnsworth

    Understand. Hope all is well, and no ill will intended.

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