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Alex Mack offer sheet brings Cleveland's transition tag gamble into question

NFL: Cleveland Browns-Training Camp

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The Jacksonville Jaguars exposed the risk that the Cleveland Browns took when they gave center Alex Mack the seldom-used transition tag, not the franchise tag.

The Jaguars will sign Mack to a huge five-year, $42 million offer sheet, according to a report from NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. That is expected to be executed officially on Friday. Cleveland has five days to match, and all indications are the Browns will match it and retain Mack.

Part of that is they are stuck in the corner with little choice.

The transition tag works similarly to the franchise tag with one major difference: There's no compensation in return if a player signs with another team. If Mack was under the franchise tag and the Jaguars signed him to that offer sheet, the Browns would probably have let him walk, and wouldn't have been too upset with how it turned out for them. And it's safe to say Jacksonville wouldn't have risked signing Mack to that much money and also run the risk of losing a draft pick if he was franchise tagged. As it stands with the transition tag, the Browns either make Mack the highest-paid center in the game on a per-year basis or lose one of their better young players for nothing and look foolish for not franchising him.

Sporting News' Ross Tucker, a good football analyst and a former NFL offensive lineman, said he wouldn't give any center $10 million a year. Mack won't get quite that but it's close. And the contract is just $18 million over the first two years, so the Jaguars didn't put the Browns in a position where they would be crazy to match a comically front-loaded contract. Cleveland can justify matching the deal for Mack. If it's overpaying a bit because the Jaguars put them in a corner vs. losing one of the best centers in football for nothing, the Browns obviously will choose the former.

The Browns' foray into the transition tag world shows why teams don't use it much. It seemed like a decent idea at the time, a way for Cleveland to get a tangible read on the market for Mack and decide whether to keep him. But it takes only one team to make it a high-risk endeavor. Jacksonville was that team, and now Cleveland has to pay up.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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