Falcons hoping for pre-injury level of play from Alex Mack
(Editor’s note: Grades and analysis for this article may be updated as further details of the deal are reported.)
The deal: Five years, $9.5 million per year, per MMQB’s Peter King.
The Atlanta Falcons are doing everything they can to surround Matt Ryan with the tools necessary to win a Super Bowl. They have one of the league’s best receivers in Julio Jones, but have also been trying to rebuild their offensive line over recent years. Jake Matthews took a big step forwards last season, but the problem-spot on the line was right up the middle, at center.
Mike Person was PFF’s 23rd-ranked center in 2015, and is likely to now be replaced with Alex Mack, who even this past season, was ranked 13th at the position after coming back from a significant injury.
Mack’s baseline of play is far closer to the best in the league at center, in particular in the run game, where Person had struggled the most.
Mack also gets to reunite with Kyle Shanahan, who was the offensive coordinator in Cleveland in 2014 before Mack got injured. In 300 snaps that season, he had yet to allow his quarterback to hit the ground and had surrendered only one pressure before injury ended his year. Mack in Atlanta is an excellent fit, and fills a hole that the Falcons had on that line—he only question becomes value.
According to MMQB’s Peter King, the deal is set to average around $9.5 million, which will make him the fourth-highest-paid center this season, but the highest-paid in average per year. The concern for Falcons fans is that his form in 2015—returning from injury—never saw a marked improvement towards his pre-injured levels. Mack saw good and bad games throughout the season, but his final four games were no better than his first four, and at some point, they have to be a little worried that he will never return to that previous form.
In every other season before 2015, Mack has consistently graded out positively, so his career baseline is commensurate with one of the best-paid players at his position—but the most recent evidence is not nearly as promising.
Last season, he graded negatively overall in pass protection for the first time in his career, and surrendered a career-high four sacks and 36 total pressures over the season.
The bottom line here is that Mack is going to a team with solid building blocks, and fits right into a system that he knows well and plays to his strengths of run-blocking. He is being paid like the best center in football, and though he has shown that kind of ability in the past, we have not seen it since he came back from a broken leg and ankle.
If there were no health concerns whatsoever, this move would be a home run, but the lingering worry that Mack may never get back to his best play keeps a cap on the grade for now.