Falcons center Alex Mack is one of a handful (albeit, a small handful) of players currently on the Falcons roster that one might describe as legendary. Well before he landed at Flowery Branch, Mack was busying himself destroying defensive linemen, making them wish they were still in college. But as all elite players are apt to do, Mack will find himself in the middle of a wholesale regression at some point. The question is when, not if, that will happen.
So acknowledging Mack’s mortality as a football player, what is his current value?
Mack signed his 5-year, $45 million contract with the Falcons in March 2016. 2020 is the last year of that deal. He’s due a base salary of $8 million next season; couple that with his prorated signing bonus of $2.55 million and we get Mack’s cap hit: $10.55 million, or roughly 5.3 percent of the total cap.
If the Falcons cut Mack after June 1st, they can net a cap savings of $8 million in 2020. The problem with cutting ties with Mack is that they’d have to replace him. While Wes Schweitzer has looked like a much better player this season, he has essentially no regular season experience at center (only 7 snaps this season and none in 2018 or 2017). For what it’s worth, 114 of Schweitzer’s 120 preseason snaps came at center, and he only gave up 1 sack and 1 quarterback pressure over those 4 games.
Mack is still a good football player; there’s no denying that fact. There’s an emerging narrative that has him already on the steep decline, but let’s take a quick look at the facts before drawing any conclusions.
Mack has only given up 1 sack, 2 quarterback hits, and 14 hurries this season. He’s played 540 snaps and only committed 7 penalties, which is tied for second-best in the league. 398 of his offensive snaps have been pass plays, and he’s still a good pass blocker. His pass blocking is even more impressive given that he’s been playing with one arm (due to a nagging elbow injury) for most of the year. Mack’s run blocking leaves something to be desired, but it’s serviceable.
Mack’s best years in Atlanta are behind him. He was an elite center in 2016 and 2017, but we’ve seen a marked decline over the last two seasons. That said, he was still an above average center last year, and again, who knows to what extent the elbow injury has slowed him this season. If Mack has an entire off-season to get healthy, it’s not crazy to think he can have a bounce back year in 2020.
The Falcons may want to re-work Mack’s contract during the off-season, but that’s going to be darn near impossible, given the circumstances. It’s the last year of the deal, and unless they want to extend him, they only have two options: cut him or just leave his contract as is in 2020. I’m inclined to think the latter is what they’ll go with. Even if the Falcons cut Mack, he’s likely to land on his feet elsewhere, notwithstanding the fact that he turn 35 next season and isn’t the otherworldly player he once was.
Your thoughts, Falcoholics?