Khalil Mack was the heart and soul of the Oakland Raiders in his first four NFL seasons, but after a lengthy contract dispute, the 2016 AP Defensive Player of the Year joined the Bears on Sep. 1.
Mack did not disappoint in his debut with the Bears, collecting a sack, a forced fumble and a pick-six in the first half of Sunday night’s game against the Packers. With the Raiders set to kickoff their season on Monday night against the Rams and Mack blowing up for the Bears, questions about the Raiders’ reasons for trading the defensive superstar are bound to come up.
So let’s revisit the trade saga.
According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Raiders and the Chicago Bears reached an agreement to swap Mack, on the morning of Saturday, Sep. 1. Before the end of the day, Schefter reported the Bears negotiated a six-year, $141 million extension with Mack with $90 million guaranteed that makes him the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL.
The huge contract eclipses the six-year, $135 million deal that 2017 Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald received from the Los Angeles Rams just one day earlier.
Mack trade rumors had been heating up for a while, and by the end of the week reports had Oakland’s asking price at a pair of first-round picks. The offers they’d received were already said to be fairly steep.
That’s what the Bears are giving up to get Mack, two first-round picks. Here are the exact terms of the trade:
Trade official, source tells ESPN:— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 1, 2018
Bears get: Khalil Mack, a 2020 second-round round pick and a conditional 2020 fifth-round pick.
Raiders get: 2019 first-round pick, 2020 first-round pick, 2020 third-round pick, 2019 sixth-round pick.
So Bears get back second-round pick, too
Mack, 27, was the fifth overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft and lived up to the hype with three Pro Bowl nods and two First-Team All-Pro selections. He and the Arizona Cardinals’ Chandler Jones are the only two players in the NFL with at least 35 sacks over the last two years.
Why did Chicago want Mack?
The Bears are not getting much attention in the NFC North. It’s still widely, correctly, assumed that the Vikings and Packers will be fighting out who takes home the division crown this year. Adding the 2016 Defensive Player of the Year is a pretty good strategy for a team that will play Aaron Rodgers and Kirk Cousins twice a year.
It’s assumed that Mack will get a new contract with the Bears, though we don’t know the particulars of it just yet. Needless to say, it won’t be cheap. Chicago has a built-in advantage when it comes to the salary cap — their quarterback, Mitch Trubisky, still has three years left on his rookie deal.
Under defensive coordinator Vig Fangio, Chicago had a respectable defensive effort last year. Mack will slide in as an outside linebacker in Fangio’s 3-4 defense, i.e. he’s going to rush the passer, because terrorizing quarterbacks is what Mack does best.
The Bears were middle of the road in most of the categories related to defending passing downs, according to Bill Connelly’s advanced statistics. Mack adds the kind of power that could put Chicago much closer to the top in those categories.
Why did the Raiders trade Khalil Mack?
One day after picking Mack in April 2014, the Raiders drafted quarterback Derek Carr in the second round and guard Gabe Jackson in the third. Both turned into good selections and earned huge extensions from the Raiders, leaving not enough room for Mack to get an extension in the 2017 offseason.
Most assumed that Mack’s extension would be the top priority of the 2018 offseason for the Raiders, but it became puzzling when little to no progress was made between the two sides. While Jon Gruden disputed a report that he had zero contact with Mack, he told a radio show in July that he hadn’t spoken to the star pass rusher since he “first got the job” in January.
Mack didn’t report to training camp and missed all four preseason games, making it clear that he had no intention to play the 2018 season under the fifth-year option on his contract. With no end to his holdout in sight and seemingly no middle ground on a contract negotiation to be found, the Raiders shipped off Mack and moved on without him.
Is Khalil Mack worth his blockbuster deal?
Mack has lived up to the hype that followed him to the NFL as the fifth overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft. After chewing up MAC offenses at Buffalo, he faced a steep learning curve in his jump to the pros, but handled it with aplomb. While he was merely average as a rookie, he exploded in his sophomore season with 15 sacks, stamping himself as a first-team All-Pro outside linebacker/defensive end.
His ability to bring a pass rush off the edge was invaluable to an otherwise below-average defense. The Raiders had the worst scoring defense in the league in 2014, but have trended closer to the middle of the pack — though not yet higher than 20th — in the past three seasons. That included a 2016 showing that helped push his team to a 12-win season and labeled Mack as the league’s defensive MVP.
Mack’s numbers sagged in 2017, but that didn’t reflect his impact on the field. A limited supporting cast meant the standout pass rusher was the focus of each opponent’s blocking scheme, leaving him prone to double teams and roll-outs designed to limit his influence. Despite that, he still managed 10.5 sacks and helped create enough chaos for Bruce Irvin to rack up eight of his own last fall.
Maybe the best gauge of Mack’s worth came at the end of August when Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald received a six-year, $135 million deal with $87 million guaranteed. Mack and Donald were the two most recent winners of the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award, and there’s an argument to be made for each as the league’s best defensive player.
He’ll get some more support after the team added Tahir Whitehead and Rashaan Melvin in free agency and pass rushing linemen PJ Hall, Arden Key, and Maurice Hurst in the draft. That latter group brings a ton of potential to the table — but also a ton of question marks. Keeping a leader and singular talent like Mack in the fold will provide a positive influence on a young group of players with high ceilings. That could make him more valuable than even whatever contract he ends up getting from the Bears.