Around 7pm last night, the smoke started to build. First with a report that the trade discussions were becoming “very real” regarding Khalil Mack and more teams had jumped into the mix, all seemingly thinking they had a shot at landing the best defender in the NFL.
We covered the talk, which carried on for about three hours, and it was the last post of the night a little after ten. But even at that time, it didn’t seem real. It seemed like more talk, even if that talk was clearly heating up.
I posted the article and got back to work on this week’s Ballers & Busters (sorry it’s so late this week). It was approaching midnight and the long day started to catch up to me, so I got to half time and then called it a night.
I went to bed thinking the biggest news for the next day was if the team would cut or trade Mario Edwards Jr. Which is probably for the best, because I may not have been able to sleep if I’d known what was really in store.
I awoke at 7am to my phone ringing. It was Tyler Green, sounding like his dog died. He said simply “They traded Khalil Mack.” And I was off.
By the time I joined the conversation, the internet was already ablaze. The news hit an hour before, which is an eternity in social media time.
Mack was headed to Chicago. The 2016 Defensive Player of the Year and best player the Raiders had drafted in two decades was gone. Gruden got up at his usual early hour and stuck a dagger into the sleeping hearts of the Raider Nation.
The compensation was initially said to be two first round picks and possibly a player as well. Come to find out not only was there no player involved who could potentially offset the significant immediate loss of talent for the Raiders, but they also sent a 2nd round pick along with Mack.
Meanwhile the Raiders just went from ‘Win now’ mode to rebuilding. Just. Like. That. Fans of the Buccaneers during his tenure there remember his track record with building through the draft.
At least Gruden has a track record of nailing draft picks... I mean there was.... um... what about.... uh... there was definitely that one guy I think... or... how about... hmm... wait it will come to me... #raiders— Justin Chechourka (@This_Justin3) September 1, 2018
Mack got a record deal from the Bears of some $23.5 million per season on a 6-year extension, which the Raiders were unwilling to give him. Had the Raiders agreed to negotiate with Mack’s people at some point between February and yesterday, they might have gotten him for $22 million per season, which seems like a bargain after Aaron Donald signed for $22.5 million per.
The #Raiders reluctance to sign Khalil Mack is puzzling, as the team has ample cap over the next 3 years to work with, in a league where the cap should approach $200M by 2020. It’s possible Oakland sees themselves heading for a roster rebuild over the next few years.— Spotrac (@spotrac) September 1, 2018
Any way you slice it, this is a huge win for the Bears and a huge loss for the Raiders. Hey, the Raiders division rivals are pretty happy about it too. Now the Raiders are bringing up the rear in a division notoriously loaded with top pass rushers.
The man who was the only good thing about the Raiders defense since they drafted him four years ago leaves a shaky defense behind. One that two seasons ago was last in the NFL in sacks despite Mack having 11.0 sacks all by himself. One that now has only Bruce Irvin as a somewhat proven pass rusher, but who has never had more than 8.0 sacks in a season. One that added interior pass rush in the draft meant to complement Mack, not attempt to survive without him.
Five weeks ago, Jon Gruden stood in front of an impassioned crowd at his party at Ricky's sports bar and yelled, "We're going to find a way to get Khalil Mack back." Big roar.— Vic Tafur (@VicTafur) September 1, 2018
That was just the rude awakening to the day. It would get worse.
Soon we would learn that the Raiders were going to release Martavis Bryant, the player they acquired in trade with the Steelers during the draft in exchange for a third round pick. Bryant is facing an indefinite league suspension for violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. Something Jon Gruden probably should have considered before he gifted a third round pick to Pittsburgh last April. Yes, that was a 2018 pick, not even a 2019 pick, so it’s already been spent.
That pick the Raiders used to get have Bryant around for four months was what they received from the Cardinals when they traded down in the first round from 10 to 14. With the Cardinals moving up to get their franchise quarterback Josh Rosen, they should have been made to fork over more than just a third round pick. But Gruden didn’t force the issue and therefore that trade down ultimately netted the Raiders absolutely nothing.
Not to mention, what was once considered a suddenly very strong receiving corps is now not even close. Also during that draft the Raiders traded former second round pick Jihad Ward to the Cowboys for WR/KR Ryan Switzer. Gruden apparently eventually realized what the Cowboys already had about Switzer and he made another deal with the Steelers to move up from the sixth to the fifth round in next year’s draft.
So, now what most expected to be the Raiders’ third and fourth receivers are both gone. Even Griff Whalen, with whom Switzer was supposedly in a ‘neck and neck’ battle for the slot receiver job was placed on injured reserve with a turf toe injury.
What the Raiders receiving corps is down to now is basically the same crew as last year, with the exception of the potential lateral move to cut 30-year-old Michael Crabtree for 33-year-old Jordy Nelson. Amari Cooper is still the number one, Seth Roberts the number three, and even Johnny Holton was able to make the roster again. Keon Hatcher moves from practice squad to active roster (for now). Oh, and Dwayne Harris works in there somewhere.
Not enough? Ok.
Then, instead of waiting to see what was out there on the waiver wire, Gruden send a fifth round pick to Buffalo for career backup AJ McCarron, who was originally a 5th round pick in the same 2014 draft in which the Raiders drafted Khalil Mack and Derek Carr with their top two picks.
A fifth round pick is too much for McCarron. But after sending a third for Martavis Bryant and a second round pick along with Khalil Mack to get less than he was worth, there’s no surprise left in me.
Thats a good job by the bills to salvage something for aj mccarron. surprised raiders were that interested— Jason_OTC (@Jason_OTC) September 1, 2018
Wait..a FIFTH for AJ McCarron? I wouldn't trade a fifth of Jim Beam for AJ McCarron.— Mike Tanier (@MikeTanier) September 1, 2018
McCarron has been kind of a white whale. He has never proven to be worth anything more than a backup role. He is probably better than Connor Cook and EJ Manuel, but that isn’t saying much. He also comes in with a week until the season, so he isn’t going to be ready to step in for Derek Carr for a while and the team cut both Cook and Manuel.
We also got the official word that Daryl Worley will be suspended the first four games of this season. He was the team’s third cornerback who filled in to Gareon Conley as the starter while Conley was dealing with his hip injury for most of training camp.
All of their moves today, along with removing the best defender in the league and cornerstone of the defense, and the only actual player they have to show for it is an expendable backup quarterback.
The Raiders are Las Vegas' team because every time I go to Vegas I have no plan, lose every asset I have very quickly and have no idea what the hell happened.— Kevin Clark (@bykevinclark) September 1, 2018
The three seemingly deepest positions this offseason were wide receiver, cornerback, and defensive line. Now those positions join offensive tackle and linebacker as major concerns. Really outside of the interior offensive line, I’m not sure there’s a position on this team that inspires great confidence.
But hey, they got a seventh rounder from the Seahawks for Shalom Luani. So, there’s that.
Oh, and the Raiders weren’t able to find a trade partner for Mario Edwards Jr. The former second round pick was waived in the roster cuts.
September 1 will live on in infamy. It’s the day Gruden picked to crush all the high hopes Raiders fans had for the season and perhaps well beyond, just a week before the first of his ten seasons with the Raiders officially began.