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Alex Mack is one of the league’s elite centers again. Will he play out his contract that way?

He’s one of the great centers of the last decade, but he is getting older.

Dallas Cowboys v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

It’s hard to remember this now, but back when the Falcons signed Alex Mack, there was some debate over the size and length of the contract. Twenty-eight games later, Mack has delivered consistently excellent play, and basically nobody regrets the pact now. The only question, really, is how long he can continue to play at an elite level.

He is playing at an elite level, by the way.

You can see by the way the Falcons structured Mack’s contract that they’re anticipating he’ll be one of the NFL’s best centers again in his age 33 season in 2018. The Falcons would take an insane $16.5 million hit in dead money if they were to cut ties with Mack next year, which means that is certainly not happening. I don’t think it’s at all bold to say that Mack should still be great next year, given what we’ve seen from him so far.

Things change a bit in 2019 and 2010, when Mack carries dead money figures of $5.1 million and $2.5 million, respectively. If Mack hits a steep decline, he could find himself seeking a new team in 2020 in particular, but after a little more than a season and a half I’m convinced that Mack doesn’t necessarily have to hit a decline. He has been everything Atlanta hoped he would be, and very durable, to boot.

There are no guarantees, but I do believe that Mack should be one of the league’s truly great centers for at least one more season. He’s already shown himself to be a rare player in terms of durability and excellence, so like Matt Bryant, he may be able to beat the odds and be an effective player into his mid-30s. The Falcons’ offense certainly will benefit if he does.