I refused to envision a scenario in which the Oakland Raiders traded away two-time All Pro and 2016 defensive player of the year Khalil Mack away. It couldn’t happen.
But, less than 24 hours after Rams’ defensive tackle Aaron Donald changed the game by signing a six-year, $135 million deal that includes a $40 million signing bonus and a whopping $87 million guaranteed, the Raiders traded Mack to the Chicago Bears, deciding that he wasn’t worth that financial commitment.
The Bears did, signing him to a six-year, $141 million extension with $90 million guaranteed — a record for a defensive player.
“That pretty much set the stage of what it was going to be,” Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said of Donald’s number. “And $90 million guaranteed is an astronomical number. It’s phenomenal, I think, for the players. Great for him, obviously. But that was something we could not do.”
That’s not entirely true. The Raiders could have paid Mack. They chose not to. Now he’s gone, and it’s time to move on, especially since they have to get ready for Donald, Todd Gurley, Marcus Peters, and Aqib Talib.
Among the many questions that I’m sure Mack’s teammates would like the answer: Why did the Raiders act so quickly to Donald’s lucrative deal and trade away one of the best edge rushers in pro football?
With a 10-year, $100 million contract, Gruden no doubt is the face of the franchise, and from the outside looking in, it looks like he has the final word on personnel decisions, which makes general manager Reggie McKenzie look like a dead man walking. Gruden needs to be reigned in a bit, and it’s obvious that McKenzie doesn’t have the power to do so.
The draft picks Chicago sent to Oakland — two first-round picks for 2019 and 2020, a sixth-rounder in 2019 and a third-rounder in 2020 — can’t help the team in 2018, but those are now draft picks Gruden has to re-shape the team.
Given his track record with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, that’s not necessarily a good thing. After the Bucs won the Super Bowl in 2002, the next six seasons for that franchise weren’t great. They were rather mediocre under Gruden, producing porous draft classes.
Talking to 95.7 The Game host Joe Fortenbaugh, he noted how three of the 61 draft picks made during Gruden’s tenure in Tampa ended up making the Pro Bowl.
Gruden has now cut McKenzie’s last three second-round draft picks, anbd traded away a valuable 2019 third-round pick to the Pittsburgh for Martavis Bryant, who was cut hours later after the franchise traded Mack.
Why not slow play this? Was Mack really going to sit out the entire season and watch his now ex-teammates play the game he loves? Honestly, I doubt it. But if he did, so what? The Raiders still had his rights.
It’s now apparent the Raiders were tired of waiting on Mack, not wanting his holdout to cause a distraction with the regular reason on the horizon.
“We have waited,” Gruden said. “We waited and waited, and the Rams game was looming. Our feeling was he was not going to report anytime soon. Like I said, I saw the Redskins go through it with Kirk Cousins. It was a long process. You can wait it out, you can franchise him, you can force him to play, but we made a decision and we’re going to stand by it.”
It’s a decision that I disagree with, and it certainly looks like the Raiders didn’t prepare well for this holdout. But now, it’s go time, and we’re all eager to see if Gruden can school his mentee Sean McVay, and live up to the lofty deal he received from owner Mark Davis.
If the Raiders want to make the playoffs for the second time in 16 seasons, the offense that Gruden inherited will have to score nearly 30 points a game.
This is a talented group, and Carr is the most talented quarterback Gruden has been able to coach, but just keep in mind that after Tampa Bay won the Super Bowl in 2002, Gruden’s offenses were never ranked higher than 18th in the NFL, and the most points they averaged in a season was 22.6. Not impressive.
I understand that the Raiders defense was one of the worst in the NFL even with Mack, but with Paul Guenther calling the defense and a slew of promising young defensive lineman, we could at least fantasize about Mack causing havoc with this group.
The Raiders panicked. Mack was worth waiting for. It’ll be awhile before we see who wins this deal, but it’s hard to see the Raiders pumping their fist about it two years from now.