The unthinkable is becoming reality as the Oakland Raiders have dealt superstar Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears. In return, Oakland is expected to pick up two first-round picks and more. The rumors turned out to be true.
Raider Nation is obviously in a collective state of disarray at the groundbreaking news. However, what does all this mean for the team for this year and years beyond?
Losing Khalil Mack will be a stunning blow to the defense. Not only did the team lose its best pass rusher, but also its best run defender. There also isn’t any proven candidate to even come close to filling the production his departure creates. Rookie Arden Key is the most likely. Key only had 5 sacks in college football last year. Of course, the reports out of training camp have been glowing for Key but he is not a proven commodity.
After that, Tank Carradine, Fadol Brown, and Shilique Calhoun will all likely take some snaps from where Mack would this year. These three have looked like an improved bunch, however, none of them have Defensive Player of the Year potential like Mack had.
This also impacts Bruce Irvin in a serious way. He is now the focal point of the defensive line. The edge-rush that was the Raiders strong suit will likely need to be replaced by the interior pass rush. To be specific, the Raiders need rookies PJ Hall and Maurice Hurst to be animals now. All signs point to this being possible.
Just about the only positive for the immediate future, barring the Bears give up a respectable player with those two first round picks, is the freeing up of 13.8 million dollars for the Raiders in 2018. If Gruden and company would like to add some secondary help, Eric Reid is a free agent still, or another linebacker, NaVorro Bowman remains unsigned, they now have to money to do so.
For the future, the Raiders have aligned themselves nicely with first round picks. However, unlike Mack, first round picks aren’t a guaranteed slam dunk. The pressure is now on the front office to deliver. As far as the future draft picks are concerned, both will likely fall in the 10-25 range. The Bears will be better this year and the Raiders, with their superior coaching staff and an easier schedule, should be improved as well.
Perhaps the most shocking part of this trade is the fact that the Raiders may never draft a player of Mack’s caliber again. He is a generational type talent. He is the first player to be AP All-Pro at two different positions in the same year, not to mention him winning DPOY. First-round pick in 2019 and 2020 are going to have a hard time living up to the shadow Khalil Mack leaves behind.
Also, the Raiders will have about 20 million more dollars to spend in free agency for 2019 than they thought they would a year ago. Here is an early list of the 2019 free agent class, keep in mind many will not reach free agency. Amari Cooper may be the beneficiary of the freed up money. He is in the fourth year of his 5-year rookie contract.
The man assuming the most risk in this situation is without a doubt head coach Jon Gruden. It is abundantly clear, Gruden is running the show in Oakland. That 100 million dollar contract guarantees it. On top of that, would GM Reggie McKenzie really be excited about trading the best draft pick he has ever selected? Personally, I have to think Gruden was the most willing to let the future Hall of Famer go. I have to give Gruden at least a little credit for his immense confidence. He surely
Personally, I have to think Gruden was the most willing to let the future Hall of Famer go. I have to give Gruden credit for his immense confidence. After all, Gruden can alleviate all concerns by winning. If the Raiders are winning and making playoff runs, in three years fans won’t have any problems with the trade. But if the team does struggle and Mack is dominating in a Bears jersey and Chicago is making deep playoff runs, Gruden could find himself in a sticky situation.
No Raider fan wanted to give up Mack. He was the best player the Raiders have had in Silver and Black in a very long time. The Raiders and Gruden will have the opportunity to make this decision look like a good one, and it starts with the week one matchup. Ironically against a Rams team who pays its superstars. In 10 years, fans of the football world will look back on this trade as either one of the worst deals in football or as a savvy business decision that helped propel the team to the top. Only time will tell, until then. Go Raiders.