A day after the Raiders made the decision to ship off the best defensive player they’ve drafted in two decades, Jon Gruden was set to take to the podium to explain why.
There were a few reasons given for trading Khalil Mack. Mostly it had to do with what the Raiders were willing to pay Mack wasn’t enough. But the Bears also made it interesting with their offer in trade.
“The negotiation was what it was. It was tough. It was a long process,” said Gruden. “We talked about it daily, we made an offer, I don’t think we were anywhere close to where the Bears were and the Bears made us an offer of what we thought was really unique. Very, very tough to say goodbye to a great player, but here we are today.”
The Bears gave Mack a 6-year extension that pays him an averaged of $23.5 million per season. Early reports this offseason had Mack’s people asking for $22 million, but clearly that changed when Aaron Donald got his $22.5 million deal.
The main parts of the deal were two first round picks to Oakland for Mack and a second round pick. Why there was a second round pick in there along with Mack is anyone’s guess. But despite having just said “We talked about it daily, we made an offer” and coming in on a 10-year $100 million contract to have his hands on everything to do with this squad swears he said had nothing to do with the negotiations or the details of the trade.
“I’m not gonna get into the negotiation,” said Gruden. “Reggie and Tom Delaney and the people that were negotiating were involved in that. I know there’s maybe some feelings that I was involved on a day-to-day negotiation, I had nothing to do with it. We were at a standoff. Something had to happen and here we are.”
There were options instead of making this trade right now. They could have waited to see if Mack reported and force him to play out his contract or at least wait a while to get that deal. From there, there was the franchise tag which they had at their disposal to be used twice. That would ensure Mack were still with the team for the next three years at least. But Gruden says he didn’t see that scenario playing out well.
“We have waited. We waited and waited and the Rams game was looming,” said Gruden. “Our feeling was he was not going to report anytime soon and like I said, I saw the Redskins go through it with Kirk Cousins, this 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.”
Gruden also said his thought process was that had he waited until next offseason to make this deal, the Raiders wouldn’t have gotten two first round picks. Which, technically, they didn’t even get that free and clear considering they had to include a second round pick as well.
As for why the Raiders didn’t give Mack an extension, he deferred to the salary cap and unforeseen future spending and “a salary of that magnitude”, adding that it’s hard to pay Derek Carr his contract as well as what Khalil Mack wanted.
“I don’t know how many teams have done that,” Gruden said of paying top dollar money for two players. “Aaron Donald got signed, they don’t have a quarterback that has been redone yet. The Bears made this trade, Trubisky’s still on his rookie deal. It’s tough when you have two players that are the highest paid or close to the highest paid at their positions. So, the economic part of it certainly weighs in. We’ve got free agents on our team that are gonna be [up] next year. We gotta find a way to bring them back. So you got to field a 53-man roster and there are some implications of having two players making that much money. That’s not mystery to anybody.”
For what it’s worth, the 49ers were also said to be interested in trading for Mack and they just paid Jimmy Garroppolo big money this offseason.
What that big money would be is another story. Carr’s only actual $25 million season is this year. He’s also not the highest paid QB in the league, he’s the 6th highest paid, and his cap amount next year — when Mack’s extension would kick in — drops to $22.5 million and continues to drop in subsequent years. The Bears didn’t add anything to Mack’s $13.8 million cap hit this year in how they structured his deal, but had the Raiders done that (They had over $8 million to play with) they could lower his cap number in future seasons as well putting the combined number between Mack and Carr around $40 million per season, which isn’t unreasonable.
But, that’s neither here nor there now. The Raiders were unwilling to pay whatever it would have costed to keep Mack and preferred future draft picks instead.
Now the Raiders must go into this season without their best defensive player and nothing to show for it until next year. And even then, we won’t see the fruits of that trade for a couple years. Despite promises they would do their damndest to win in Oakland before they split for Vegas in 2020.
“It’s tough,” Gruden said of fielding the best possible team right away. “It wasn’t my goal to trade Khalil when we got here. One of the reasons I’m here is because of him.”
That was one of the reasons Raiders fans wanted Gruden here as well. To hopefully take a cornerstone piece like Mack and bring this team to the next level. Now that celebrated 2014 draft upon which this team is built has lost a major piece of its foundation. And it could take a while to rebuild it.