A year ago, the biggest storyline in Raider Land was the team’s best player — Khalil Mack — being away from the team as he awaited a new contract extension. Of course, in June of 2018 no one imagined that he’d actually be moved, but his absence remained a thorn in the side of new head coach Jon Gruden.
A few months later, in the first week of September, one of the more significant trades in franchise (and probably league) history was consummated. The Oakland Raiders were sending Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears.
Now, nine months later, let’s take a look at where the trade currently stands…
Raiders received: 2019 First-Round Pick, 2020 First-Round Pick, 2020 Third-Round Pick, 2019 Sixth-Round Pick
Bears received: Khalil Mack, 2020 Second-Round Pick, 2020 Conditional Fifth-Round Pick
It’s worth noting that shortly after the trade was completed, the Bears also agreed to an extension with Mack that made him the highest paid defensive player in NFL history. The deal was for six years and $141 million — $90 million of which was guaranteed (and $60 million which was paid at signing).
So….was it worth it?
It’s honestly impossible to imagine a scenario where the answer to that question is “yes”, however, I do think now that we’re a year into the trade and one of those first rounders has become an actual player, that it’s easy to feel better about things. The Bears’ first-rounder in 2019 turned into running back Josh Jacobs, while the sixth-round pick was sent to the Jets along with Kelechi Osemele for a 5th round pick.
But what about those 2020 picks? As it stands, the Bears have the eighth-highest over/under win total in Las Vegas — tied with five other teams at nine wins. The Raiders remain near the bottom of the league, with just two teams “projected” to win less games this season. If that were to stand, the Raiders would receive a pick in the early 20s but would be sending back a pick in the mid-30’s — which would be a nightmare.
For this trade to become salvageable, the Raiders are going to need some major regression from the Bears — which isn’t unimaginable considering they were the sixth-luckiest team in football last season. They’ll also need some progression themselves, of course. If the Raiders can see the Bears pick creep into the top-20, while their own floats down towards 10 then the pick swap becomes far more manageable.
One other thing that I think is worth mentioning here is how the finances all break down. By trading Mack, the Raiders also added something that never shows up in a trade breakdown: cash. Now, the Raiders aren’t hard-pressed for cap space, but there has been debate about whether or not they’re hard-pressed for cash. Either way, let’s assume that the Raiders had to choose between spending $23 million a year on Mack or someone else.
By trading Mack, the Raiders also freed up the space necessary to sign free agents like Trent Brown ($16.5 million annually), Lamarcus Joyner ($10.5 million annually) and others (Tyrell Williams, Vontaze Burfict, Brandon Marshall, etc.).
So what’s the verdict? Well, I’d still rather have Khalil Mack. If there’s one person that the Raiders could dream up to drop into the 2019 roster, it’s basically Khalil Mack — and so while Jacobs and the free agents (as well as future picks) will help, this year they remain disadvantaged. While it’s easy to see a pathway in which this trade becomes more and more palatable over time, we’re not totally there yet.