CLEVELAND -- On Monday, the Cleveland Browns exercised their "transition" tag on center Alex Mack.
By exercising the right to use the transition tag on Mack, the Browns will have seven days to decide whether or not they wish to match any offer he gets while testing the free-agent market. The match would have to be to the terms agreed upon between the player and another NFL franchise.
"All options were open to us," Browns coach Mike Pettine said after an autograph signing at the Cleveland Auto Show Monday night. "We looked at the CBA as far as what options were available there. As far as wanting to get something done, we felt that was the best avenue for us to go. He's an outstanding player. He wanted to be a Cleveland Brown for a long time, and I think putting the thought behind it will allow us the opportunity to potentially do that.
"He's outstanding. He really is. He's one of the better centers in the National Football League."
Signing Mack is such a priority for the Browns that Pettine, his offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan, and offensive line coach, Andy Moeller, travelled to California for a meeting with the two-time Pro Bowl center this past weekend.
"I felt it was important for him to get to know us as a coaching staff, so I went and saw him with Kyle Shanahan and Andy Moeller, a very informal sit down and said, 'Here's the program,'" Pettine recalled. "We didn't want to try and sign a guy, lock him up to a long-term deal when he didn't have a good feel for who we were, who I was, what I believed in, my core beliefs in running a program.
"If it didn't marry up to what he was looking for, then we would've felt comfortable turning him loose, but we felt it was important for him to see who we were as people first and then, as football guys second. We had a great meeting with him. From our view, from our side of the table, I thought it went very well."
Prior to talking with Mack, Pettine spoke with seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas, who has played every snap on the same line as Mack since the beginning of the 2009 regular season.
"Knowing that he is a team leader, I wanted to sit down with him and talk him through and getting him to know me, not specific football stuff, but just to get a feel for me as a head coach, what my philosophy was, where I was coming from," Pettine said. "I think a positive by-product of that was he was able to convey some of that to Alex."
Mack was a first-round pick of the Browns in the 2009 NFL Draft. He has started and played every snap of the 80 games since being the Browns' first pick and has twice represented the team in the Pro Bowl (2011, 2014).
This past season, Mack was named a second-team All-Pro honoree by the Associated Press after playing all 1,106 offensive snaps. Along with Mack, Joe Thomas, New York Jets left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson, and Justin Blalock of the Atlanta Falcons are the only four NFL offensive linemen to take every snap since at least 2009.
In 2012, Mack was named a first alternate to the Pro Bowl after blocking for former running back Trent Richardson's rookie record-setting season. Behind Mack, Richardson set six franchise rookie records, including the most rushing yards (950), rushing touchdowns (11), total touchdowns (12), total yards from scrimmage (1,317), carries (267) and points scored (72).
In 2011, Mack did not miss a snap despite suffering an appendicitis and being limited in practice leading up to a cross-country trip to play the Oakland Raiders following the bye week.
"For me, Alex is great," quarterback Brian Hoyer said. "I don't know how this offense does it, but I know last year, he made all of the line calls, the Mike points. That's so valuable when you have a guy that can do that and not put it on the quarterback. Hopefully, we can keep him and I look forward to playing with him again.
"With Alex, he can take center to a whole other level. He can almost be a quarterback on the line. A lot of those guys really rely on him. Hopefully, with that transition tag, everything works out and he ends up staying in Cleveland because it was great to get the chance to play with him, get a chance to know him. Hopefully, he's here come April.
"When you know you have a top guy there, it takes a little bit off your table. He's a Pro Bowler for a reason. It's great to have those types of guys on your team. You talk about stability? You keep your good players in your locker room."