New insight from Raiders owner Mark Davis sheds light on why Khalil Mack was traded and how the move could pay massive dividends in more ways than one.
With the beginning of the season a week away, and signs pointing to a possible lengthy holdout, the decision to trade defensive superstar Khalil Mack came down and Raider Nation was thrown into chaos.
The Raiders made out with quite a bit of value for trading their best player. The team came away with the Chicago Bears 2019 and 2020 first round draft picks, their 2020 third-round pick, and their sixth-round pick in the 2019 draft. The Raiders also sent Chicago their 2020 second-round pick and a conditional 2020 fifth-round pick. Sure, it’s a lot but how the Raiders draft in those spots will determine if it was nearly enough for letting go of the talented Mack.
Understandably, the move was met with outrage and criticism at the time. Mack was not only one of the most dominant defensive players in the NFL, but he was also one of the most beloved on the roster. He was a great leader, teammate, and did not have a single issue away from the field. Given all of that, head coach Jon Gruden’s move to trade him may have been a stroke of genius.
Players bypassing One-Year Deals
The Pittsburgh Steelers are currently in a holding pattern to see if running back Le’Veon Bell will end his season-long holdout and sign his $14.5M franchise tender by tomorrow’s deadline. If he doesn’t sign, he will not be able to play this season and forgoes his entire salary. Up to this point, it has been considered unthinkable that a player would pass on earning such a large salary.
While the trade was not what the team and fans wanted, it appears that Gruden made the most of a bad situation. His decisiveness at that moment lead to respectable compensation and avoided the mess that has unfolded in Bell’s scenario.
In Mack’s circumstance, he was still under contract after the team picked up his fifth-year option in his rookie deal. This team option would pay him $13.5M this season. In an interview with ESPN.com yesterday, Raiders owner Mark Davis seemed to indicate they expected Mack to take a similar tact as Bell after turning down at least one previous offer from Oakland.
“My thought was, ‘Listen, he signed a five-year contract, if he’s the type of guy that I think he is, he’s going to honor that contract,'” Davis recalled to ESPN. “And he’s going to come in and play for the $13 million for this year and then we’ll work for him during the year and get it. Word came back through certain players that know him and talk to him and know me as well, that he wasn’t going to come in. He was going to do the Le’Veon Bell (holdout). At that point, I said, ‘F it. The guy hasn’t talked to anybody. We’ve got to do something.”
What the team received for Mack had a lot to do with when he was traded. While the Steelers were unable to secure a trade partner, the Raiders had no shortage of offers. Going into the trade deadline, teams had a much better idea of their ability to compete for a playoff spot. Teams who looked to be out of the race were less likely to make a move and ultimately a deal wasn’t consummated.
Mack, on the other hand, was moved prior to the start of the season when most teams were still full of optimism and still unsure of their team’s potential for 2018. Getting Mack on the market early increased those courting him and their offers and increased the Raiders leverage and the quality of their trade bounty.
While the trade was not what the team and fans wanted, it appears that Gruden made the most of a bad situation. His decisiveness at that moment lead to respectable compensation and avoided the mess that has unfolded in Bell’s scenario. It was heartbreaking to watch a beloved player move on but the outcome is undeniable.
It remains to be seen if Gruden’s system will return the franchise to glory but he certainly possesses the courage of his convictions. He is willing to make the tough calls knowing the fallout he will endure.
That is what being the leader is all about.