By Paul Wanecski
It was not all that long ago that Cleveland Browns center Alex Mack was the subject of a lengthy debate during one of our broadcasts. He had been give the transition tag in 2013, which he was unable to escape when Cleveland when the matched the $42 million contract that was offered by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Mack, however, has an opt-out clause coming up at the end of this season. Given the rampant dysfunction in the Browns organization, it seems almost a sure thing that Mack will be out of Cleveland and on the open market at the end of this year.
The Browns may explore trade options knowing how unhappy Mack has been the last two years. The issue is his contract; being the best center in the league along with receiving salary that matches that is a lot for most teams to take on. While trade options may be explored, you don’t just give away the best player at his position for nothing. This is especially important when you are the Browns, whose offense is void a reliable starting QB and have squandered the performance of LT Joe Thomas with a perennially underachieving offense. Mack will not be able to play this season fast enough to get out of Cleveland.
So what does this mean if you are the Buffalo Bills? You already have center Eric Wood who has played well at the middle of your offensive line. ProFootballFocus graded him as a bottom 15 center, which may be just as much attributed to the guard play around him – a position that was addressed this offseason with only one signing. At this point, the guards surrounding him will be filled with a mix of Cyrus Kouandijo, Kraig Urbik, Cyril Richardson, Chris Williams, and Richie Incognito. Williams has faced chronic injury and performance issues. Urbik is graded as an average player who filled in well last season, but took a pay cut this offseason to stay with the team. Kouandijo was inactive nearly the entire season after being a 2nd round selection in 2014. Richardson was pulled for Urbik last year when given the opportunity to start. Incognito was out of the league after his locker room incidents in Miami. While the line may prove to be effective, you can never stop looking for ways to improve your team.
The measurables on Wood and Mack are near identical; both stand at 6’4”, both are listed as 310 pounds and both are 29 years old. Is it possible that the Bills make a run at Mack with the intention of sliding Wood to guard? As mentioned, you can never stop looking for ways to improve your football team. Mack will not come cheap unless this year proves to be a total disaster for him either on an individual performance level or by injury. In either case, it would be hard to argue that the line wouldn’t be instantly improved with the addition of Mack at center and Wood at guard. Given the year the Mack has, he could also slide out to guard, however, I doubt that is something he would want to do. The Bills could be a hot landing spot given the youth and explosiveness they will have on the offensive side of the ball. From a protection standpoint, having two players who understand line calls in the middle would be a tremendous advantage to any QB under center.