No matter what an NFL team does, there will be those who disagree with it. Every team is built differently and not all of them are going to work out as hoped. Few teams this offseason were more busy than the Raiders, so there was a lot to consider when ESPN put together their offseason grades.
The Raiders were given a C+ grade.
That’s not great, but there were certainly many teams who fared worse in the grades. It’s middle of the pack, considering there were 13 teams who got worse grades than the Raiders and a few who got the same grade.
To help with their opinions on each team’s offseason moves, they asked some unnamed NFL executives to give their takes. This is where it gets interesting.
Though the trade of Khalil Mack was not made this offseason, it was made just prior to last season and the first of the two draft picks acquired from the trade did occur in April when the Raiders made the Bears pick at 24 overall. They got Alabama RB Josh Jacobs.
Also since then was the Amari Cooper trade which was made midseason and had the Raiders picking for the Cowboys at 27 overall, selecting Mississippi State safety Johnathan Abram.
One exec was not a fan of those swaps.
”I would rather have Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper than Josh Jacobs and Johnathan Abram,” an exec said. “That is why it is dangerous to trade good players for draft picks. Those draft picks are super valuable until they are spent and then they are players that not everybody wants.”
Another exec looked at the Mack trade in a different light. Because while the Raiders balked at the idea of paying the now 3-time All Pro Mack $23 million, they went out this offseason and made a somewhat unproven Trent Brown, who has never even made a Pro Bowl, the richest offensive lineman in NFL history.
”They pass on Khalil Mack, but then they overpay the tackle [Trent Brown] and they overpay the safety [Lamarcus Joyner],” another exec said. “You could have had a dynamic pass-rusher [Mack] for $23 million a year, but now you are paying $27 million a year for a safety and a tackle who could not start in San Francisco two years ago.”
These are all valid criticisms. Especially those with regard to Khalil Mack. There’s very little defense (so to speak) for making such a move.
That being said, at least one exec sees a method to the madness.
”They are paying a bunch of offensive guys and it is not a terrible strategy,” an exec said. “They are saying they will draft on defense and have guys for four years. Most of these big-time players getting cut are defensive guys, which I think played into their thinking on Mack. There is some evidence to support it and that is how they are building their team.”
Trent Brown’s deal in particular shifts much of his money to his second year, which is great for him, but could be potentially bad for the Raiders because if he stumbles out the gates, they are stuck with him for at least two years.
”One thing they did was structure contracts to have big bucks in Year 2, for when they are in Vegas,” an exec said. “That is good for players, too, because there is no state income tax in Nevada.”
Now, I know how this goes. Those of you who would be angry at these executives’ criticism will bitch that they should put their name on it. The fact of the matter is, if you want honesty — actual honesty — you get it with anonymity. That’s how journalism works. Otherwise you’re just a publicist.