Next year Maurkice is a free agent, and will demand big money. Maurkice Pouncey has missed time, at some point, every year he has been in the NFL because of an injury. Every season. This year he will cost the Steelers $5.5m against the cap, and no telling what he will want next season. If we do not resign him the most he would bring us back is a 3rd round compensatory pick.
Alex Mack is a free agent this year. Alex Mack has never missed a game in his NFL career. Alex Mack has developed into one of the best C in football, and in my opinion the best in the AFC North.
Would trading Pouncey for a high draft choice this year (1st or 2nd round), and using his money this year, and what he would have commanded in a long term contract after next season, be better spent on Alex Mack?
I think if the Steelers showed enough interest in Mack, Pittsburgh would be high on his list. Stability in a coaching staff, something he has never had in Cleveland. Working with a Hall of Fame OL coach, and playing in a place he is familiar with.
For informational purposes, Ryan Kahlil signed the richest contract for a C last season with the Panthers. $49M for 6 years, with a $19m signing bonus. His contract is a front end loaded one, with his last year only counting $2.8M against the cap (something the Steelers should consider doing, you know paying for production and setting themselves up to cut dead wood as the player starts to decline at minimal cost). So, both Mack and Pouncey will command similar money. Also, Mack graded out as the number 1 center in 2013 according to Pro Football Focus.
What I would do as GM....
Offer Pouncey and Gilbert to Dolphins, hope to get Miami's 1st round pick and Martin, if not maybe multiple picks in the 2nd and 4th and Martin. This would lock up your entire starting offensive line Mack for 6 years, DeCastro through 2015, Ramon Foster (2015), Beachum (2015) and Adams (2015), and reserve T in Martin (2015) through the next 2 years. In doing so you would have spent a few million extra this year, but you gain years going out at C, and additional draft pick(s).
Use the money you saved by trading Pouncey, and cutting Levi Brown, to make a strong push to sign Alex Mack (if the Browns do not franchise tag him, and I do not believe they will). Figure something in the average of $8.1M a year for 6 years (Kahlil's contract), the difference from what you would be paying Pouncey ($5.5m) and what you are offering Mack ($8.1m) isn't that far apart and could be easily found with the release of Ike and extending Cortez Allen.
One last thing to add about injuries and the affect it has on the OL. This is a quote from Pro Bowl LT Joe Thomas FULL ARTICLE, the full article talks about Alex Mack, worth a read.
"Alex is a Gumby-like person. His durability is one of his best assets for any team because the worst thing that can happen on an offensive line is constantly shuffling rotations because of guys that are getting injured, so to have a reliable center is very important."