The second coming of the Jon Gruden era in Oakland is off to a rocky start.
Star pass-rusher Khalil Mack is in the midst of a holdout apparently so serious that NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport reports that there’s been no progress, optimism, or communication between the two sides regarding the future. That’s not quite the news you want to hear if you’re the fan of a team that probably can’t afford to be without the 2016 Defensive Player of the Year, three-time Pro Bowler, and two-time first-team All-Pro for any length of time.
And because the relationship between the two sides seems tenuous, it doesn’t take much of an imagination to start dreaming about the potential for a trade. And it becomes even easier when one ex-NFL executive explicitly says it could happen: “My gut tells me that they’ll trade him and try to get some good draft picks for him,” said Vinny Cerrato in an interview with 95.7 The Game. “That’s what (my gut tells me) – especially if he holds out and especially if they’re doing well in the preseason and the defense is doing well.”
Cerrato was the Vice President of Football Operations in Washington from 2002 t0 2009 and the Director of College Scouting in San Francisco before that. So to say he has some credibility on the pulse and motiviations of teams/players is more than fair. Mack, meanwhile, has picked up 36.5 of his 40.5 sacks over the course of the last three seasons, each of which has resulted in a Pro Bowl berth for the University of Buffalo product.
The Raiders shouldn’t be looking to trade him as the team prepares to take its talents to Las Vegas, but stranger things have happened in the history of Raiders football. And if this rumor does grow legs, teams, including the Chicago Bears, should/will be knocking on Oakland’s door inquiring about a possible deal.
In fact, given the Bears significant needs at pass rusher and available cap space* to reach a long-term deal to keep Mack in Chicago this feels like a “duh” connection.
*It’s worth noting that the Bears have the sixth most salary cap space ($26,327,403), according to spotrac.com. They would need that kind of space in order to satisfy Mack’s contractual needs, which could rival the $19 million average per year salary of Von Miller.
Of course, the real question is what’ll take to get him. Even if the Raiders have lost some leverage, it’ll still be costly. Mack has averaged a shade more than 12 sacks per year since the start of the 2015 season and could be the kind of defensive game-changer the Bears currently don’t have in their front seven. Acquiring him, then, would likely cost multiple first-round picks … and then some.
Obviously, that’s a very steep price to pay, but it might be worth it for a team on the rise with a clear need at one of the game’s most important positions. So while a Bears-Raiders swap seems unlikely, this situation is one we’ll need to keep an eye on moving forward.