ATLANTA — The Atlanta Falcons agreed to terms on a five-year, $47.5 million contract with three-time Pro Bowl center Alex Mack on Wednesday, addressing one of the team’s most pressing needs.
The deal makes the longtime Cleveland Browns starter the NFL’s highest-paid center, with an average salary of $9.5 million.
The Falcons also reached an agreement with quarterback Matt Schaub, who will be returning to the city where he launched his NFL career.
Mack, 30, will be a good fit for Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme. Shanahan spent the 2014 season with Mack as Cleveland’s offensive coordinator. Mack missed 11 games that season with a broken leg, but started the other 101 games in his seven seasons with the Browns.
The Falcons have had instability at center since longtime starter Todd McClure retired following the 2012 season. Mike Person, James Stone and Gino Gradkowski started at the position last season.
Mack was set to make $24 million over the next three years on a contract he signed in 2014 before he opted out to become an unrestricted free agent.
“This was an extremely difficult decision,” Mack said in a statement released by his agent, Timothy Younger. “After careful consideration, I concluded it was time to start a new chapter in my life. Over the last seven years, I have established friendships with teammates, coaches, and staff that will last a lifetime.”
Added Mack: “I certainly will miss the Dawg Pound! I am VERY thankful and grateful for the opportunity and privilege to have played for the Browns organization, and I did my level best always to represent the team well.”
Schaub was a third-round pick by Atlanta in 2004.
After three years as a backup with the Falcons, Schaub was traded to Houston before the 2007 season. He spent seven seasons with the Texans, starting 88 of 90 games, before serving as a backup with Oakland and Baltimore the past two seasons.
In two starts with the Ravens in 2015, Schaub completed 52 of 80 passes for 540 yards with three touchdowns and four interceptions.
Schaub is expected to take the top backup job behind starter Matt Ryan.
The Falcons also released nose tackle Paul Soliai, who started 24 games the past two seasons.