Earlier this week, former Raider and current Cowboy receiver Amari Cooper was interviewed on the ThomaHawk Podcast, hosted by Andrew Hawkins and former Browns left tackle Joe Thomas. Cooper was asked a variety of questions which would be of interest to Raider fans and fans of Cooper, but he did give some insight into the state of the Raider locker room following the trade of Khalil Mack just prior to the beginning of the regular season.
“When Mack got traded, it was like a week before opening night. Our first game was on Monday Night against the Rams. Their first game was on Sunday night against Green Bay, so we were able to sit down and watch their game before we went to our hotel room. Obviously everybody knows how he dominated that game, he had a pick six, a sack fumble, another sack, I mean he just wreaked havoc that whole game. Guys were kinda looking at the game like, happy for Mack, but mad for the organization,” said Cooper.
“We actually had to have a meeting about what Mack did that Sunday night. We played Monday, and when we came back in Wednesday we had a meeting about that because some guys were just mad, like, are they really trying to win here in this organization, or am I just here for nothing?”
Obviously, we here at S&BP and others at Raider websites all around the Internet have discussed the Mack trade ad nauseum, but it’s rare that we get to have this level of insight into how a locker room collectively felt about an event or issue as important to the team as this one was. According to Cooper, the Raider players themselves felt the same way many of us did about the Khalil Mack trade. I can understand some Raider players being upset, particularly those who had just signed as defensive free agents. You sign with the Raiders thinking you’re going to play with Khalil Mack, and then suddenly you’re not. It would leave you wondering whether you just signed on for a lost cause.
Mack was the best edge rusher in football when he was traded and he remained so afterwards. Cooper, however, was traded for a first-rounder when he was nowhere near that level, even though he played much better as a Cowboy than he did as a Raider. You’ll notice there was little in the way of gnashing of teeth or wailing when Cooper was traded. And we all saw in the Pro Bowl how much his hands have improved.
It remains to be seen whether either of these trades will ultimately be worth the price, because the Raiders won’t finish making the draft picks they got in the deals until next April. Financially, they give the team far more to work with in rebuilding the roster, as it’s hard to pay a defensive player quarterback money while also paying the actual quarterback that money as well. But at least initially, the internal locker room reaction to the Mack trade was exactly what we suspected it would be. Players always say “it’s a business” when other players come and go, but that’s what they say to the media and fans. What they say to the coaches and front office can be far more visceral.