The Jacksonville Jaguars signed Brown center Alex Mack to a 5-year, $42 million deal with $18 million guaranteed - all coming in his base salaries in 2014 and 2015 - offer sheet in restricted free agency. Cleveland wasted little time inking Mack to that deal, exercising their right to match Jacksonville's offer.
In doing so, it would seem they set the market for Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey, who has one less season under his belt than Mack, but three Pro Bowl trips and one All-Pro nod to his credit.
The question is whether the Steelers can afford Pouncey at or around Mack's salary.
Tribune Review reporter Alan Robinson dropped a hint in an article in Wednesday's edition odds are better than average the Steelers make Pouncey an offer before the offseason is over.
Writes Robinson, "Center Maurkice Pouncey, who is in the final year of his rookie deal, is likely to get a new contract before the season starts."
Considering the article is a general look at who the Steelers might engage in a contract discussion with the extra room they have under the salary cap, his comment may not be taken in the right context. The Steelers obviously do not have the cap space to give Pouncey $10 million in the form of a salary this year, so they couldn't match Mack's deal. Giving an oft-injured center an $18 million signing bonus may seem a tad risky right now as well.
This doesn't mean Pouncey couldn't find himself on the receiving end of such a deal after a healthy season of outstanding play. The Steelers would be wise to lock up one of the better centers in the game, but using Mack's deal as the basis of their negotiations doesn't seem appropriate. Both Cleveland and Jacksonville had considerable cap space and neither have a franchise quarterback in place, let alone one who's entering contract negotiations of his own.
Whether Pouncey's agent cares about that remains to be seen, but he does know Jacksonville still has cap space and still does not have a center of Pouncey's caliber. Playing a year and seeing if he can get that kind of offer would make sense. But so would Pouncey taking a long deal now with the Steelers, getting a nice chunk of change up front in a cap friendly deal and helping to lead this team's rebuilt offensive line as the Steelers' running game becomes among the best in the NFL.