The tension between stud pass rusher Khalil Mack and the Oakland Raiders is building.
Oakland’s top defensive talent has done nothing but put up elite numbers since being drafted back in 2014 and as he enters the final year of his rookie deal, he desires a new contract.
The Raiders don’t seem too keen on giving it to him.
Perhaps Oakland is just playing hard ball or maybe they prefer Mack to honor his full rookie deal. That, or they’d just prefer to tag him for the next couple of years before he peaks.
Either way, Mack has been an elite force and deserves more money for the production he’s delivering. Rumors suggest he is eyeing Von Miller-type money and things have gotten so salty in Oakland that this situation may be irreparable.
There’s no way to know that for sure, but as things stand, media outlets are suggesting Mack could be on the trading block.
Gruden is quoted as saying Oakland wasn’t good defensively last year even with Mack, so it isn’t that crazy to imagine the old school coach wanting to put his foot down here.
Are the Raiders really about to deal a 27-year old pass rusher who can change a game and lift defenses all on his own? I can’t know, but I do know he was one of the top rated defensive players by Pro Football Focus and he excels at getting after the quarterback.
Assuming the Raiders really are ready to deal their top defensive star, it’s certainly interesting to imagine which teams would pay a hefty price to get Mack and then sign him to the long-term deal he covets.
All of the other 31 NFL teams should send a cursory call, but only a handful are realistic landing spots. Here’s five that Mack could potentially help make a title run in 2018:
Let’s start with the Cowboys, who have been so desperate for pass-rushing help in the past that they’ve signed Greg Hardy and drafted Randy Gregory.
Gregory could be back in 2018, but Dallas doesn’t have a whole lot to get excited about on their defensive line beyond DeMarcus Lawrence. Making a play for Mack would give them a huge boost after ranking 15th in sacks in 2017.
The cost would be big, of course. The actual package it would take to land Mack is unknown, but considering he was once a 5th overall pick and has morphed into one of the league’s best pass rushers, he wouldn’t be had on the cheap.
Dallas could sacrifice some defensive depth in a trade, but any deal would probably include next year’s first round pick and then some.
The Falcons are arguably closer to competing for a title than the Cowboys (+1600 title odds at Sportsbetting.ag), so they may be a little more willing to sell out to land Mack.
Dan Quinn preaches elite defense, but his Dirty Birds unit just hasn’t been all that great.
Landing Mack would give him a stud pass-rushing presence on both sides of the line, however, with the talented Vic Beasley operating opposite of Mack.
Both of these guys come with elite versatility, too, which could really open things up for Atlanta defensively.
Much like Dallas, of course, the Falcons would have to pay a hefty price to pull off a deal and they’d also probably have to try to figure out a long-term deal to appease Mack.
Considering they just dealt with Julio Jones and his contract situation, however, that seems like something they’d be able to figure out.
Green Bay Packers
Depending on who you ask, the Packers might be even higher on the totem pole than Dallas or Atlanta.
Sportsbetting.ag has handed the green and gold +1400 odds to make a title run this year and that has everything to do with the return of star quarterback, Aaron Rodgers.
There is no denying Green Bay earns most of its respect from it’s offense, but this is a team slated to improve astronomically on the defensive side of things as well.
Mike Pettine takes over as defensive coordinator, while they team signed defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson in free agency and also completely revamped their secondary.
Trading for Mack would be the final piece to a championship puzzle, while it’d also address a serious need. Thanks to an injury to inside linebacker Jake Ryan (torn ACL), the Packers need to find a competent body to slide into the middle of the field next to Blake Martinez.
Clay Matthews projects as the answer and trading for Mack actually upgrades their ability to get after the quarterback from the outside.
Green Bay gets Mack out of the AFC and they’re one of the few teams that seem poised to actually force Oakland to think about this. Thanks to two first round picks in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Packers have the ammunition to pull off a huge deal before the 2018 NFL regular season arrives.
All set on offense, the Packers may want to consider jumping on Mack, who is in his prime and could drastically upgrade an already improving defense.
Los Angeles Rams
I can’t leave out the Rams before I exit the NFC, as they’ve done a better job than anyone at collecting marquee talent.
They traded for wide receiver Brandin Cooks to beef up an explosive offense, while they also brought in studs like Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters and Ndamukong Suh to load up an already stacked defense.
L.A. is without a doubt a very real Super Bowl 53 threat as they stand (+1200), but bringing in yet another elite defensive menace might make them the top favorite.
As good as Los Angeles is, they could actually use an injection of high level talent on the edge. Robert Quinn and Connor Barwin are gone and the majority of their imposing defensive talent soaks up the defensive line and secondary.
Bringing in Mack would not be a cheap move, but it could be the difference between the Rams winning or not winning a title.
New England Patriots
I personally doubt the Raiders are foolish enough to trade such a talented defensive player inside their own conference, but teams do unthinkable things all the time.
Let’s not forget that Oakland did at one point trade Randy Moss to New England, while they also brought back Jon Gruden to coach this team.
I won’t put anything past the Silver & Black, while you have to think Bill Belichick is at least pondering the thought of snatching up such an impactful defensive presence.
It’s going to be all about the price, of course.
Belichick has scoffed at paying elite talent in the past, quickly dispatching Jamie Collins, Chandler Jones and so many others just to avoid handing a ton of cash to one player.
That could take them out of the running, but one thing the Pats didn’t do well in 2017 was defend. New England was still a top-10 unit at getting after the quarterback, but just think of the potential impact someone like Khalil Mack could provide.
Already favored to win it all this year (+700 at Sportsbetting.ag), a move like this could make the Pats a lock.
If I had to bet on where Mack winds up, I probably would just pick the Raiders.
I don’t yet see any Khalil Mack prop bets out there, but Oakland would have to take the cake if you’re trying to gauge Khalil Mack odds.
That being said, Mack is upset and the new regime doesn’t seem too willing to bend at the moment. If Oakland can get serious value in return of a guy about to break the bank, I can understand them seriously considering pulling the trigger on such a deal.
If anyone is about to make this trade happen, I think it could be the Packers.
The conservative Ted Thompson is no longer calling the shots for this franchise and virtually every move Green Bay has made this offseason suggests they’re planning on winning now and down the road.
That is not something everyone gets to do and thanks to two first round picks in next year’s draft, Green Bay has the equity to dangle in trade talks.
It’s not the most practical move and it’s certainly not one that is safe. It might be the big splash the Packers need to make, however, and it very well could be what vaults them from mere title threat to true Super Bowl 53 favorite.