Editor's note: The Bears are making a deal for Mack.
Khalil Mack is one of the most valuable players in the NFL, with a 2016 Defensive Player of the Year award as proof. He also just turned 27 years old, which should signal he's in the prime of his career.
The Oakland Raiders apparently don't want to pay him, though, as reports indicate his agent, Joel Segal, and the team's brass haven't communicated in months. Of course, Mack hasn't been with the team in months, seemingly committed to continuing his holdout even as per-game financial penalties of more than $814,000 loom beginning next week.
If Mack doesn't show up soon, no one wins — well, save for Raiders opponents.
Does that mean the likelihood of a trade is increasing by the day? We've long felt (and written) that the asking price would begin at two first-rounders, which NFL Media's Tom Pelissero reported was true the other day. Let's go over a few of the bigger pros and cons for any club interested in trading for Mack.
Pro No. 1 — Mack is a scheme-transcendent, game-changing player
The defense acquiring Mack would receive one of the two or three best exterior pass rushers in the league. Mack is also a fantastic run defender, and he's shown he can play on his feet or with his hand on the ground. Offenses must account for him on every play. He's averaged more than 10 sacks and two forced fumbles, in addition to 17 tackles for loss, in each of his four seasons.
His track record — on and off the field — is unassailable. He's started 64 consecutive games to begin his career. And the off the field part shouldn't be discounted, not as we've seen other problem children sent packing for a pittance. Mack's clean off-field record and impressive durability minimizes a team's risk.
Con No. 1 — Mack wants to be the NFL's highest-paid defender
That likely means a contract north of $20 million annually with upward of $75 million guaranteed. It's unclear whether the Raiders even have that type of capital, perhaps the one understandable reason they're seemingly willing to let him walk.
The Eagles just won a Super Bowl with Fletcher Cox possessing the second-biggest contract by a defender in football. But the clubs rounding out the top five in biggest contracts for a defender based on guaranteed money — Von Miller's Broncos; Marcell Dareus, formerly of Buffalo; Justin Houston's Chiefs; and Olivier Vernon's Giants — have one combined playoff win since rewarding their prized defenders.
Is there a correlation? Maybe so, maybe not. But the reluctance to pay any non-QB this type would be understandable, even if he provides a premium skill second only to throwing touchdowns and dissecting defenses.
Pro No. 2 — Mack creates fan interest
I cannot quantify this unfortunately, but have you been on Twitter lately? If your team has any hope and pass-rush need whatsoever (read: just about all of them), its fan base is on the verge of hysteria over acquiring Mack. What better way to signal to fans an earnest desire to win than shooting for the stars by trading for a Defensive MVP in the prime of his career at the second-most important position on the field?
Con No. 2 — Draft capital is significant
Recall the players who have been acquired in recent seasons in exchange for multiple first-rounders: Robert Griffin III, Jay Cutler, Ricky Williams and, going back much farther, Herschel Walker.
Meantime, we've seen just this offseason the game's premier ballhawk, albeit with all kinds of off-field baggage, Marcus Peters, dealt for second- and fourth-rounders. Alex Smith, coming off a Pro Bowl season, was dealt for a second-rounder and a promising young corner. Only Brandin Cooks has commanded a first — two years in a row! — and the Rams knew they'd have to make Cooks among the game's highest-paid wideouts.
In addition to Smith, fellow starter Jimmy Garoppolo was procured for a two (and a top-five QB contract). There just hasn't been many trades for players, much less non-QBs, involving this type of compensation — and the ones that did all cost the people pulling the acquisition strings jobs.
Pro No. 3 — Mack's rare skill set is extremely difficult to find
It's a pressure and matchup league, and few can create more havoc and better mismatches than Mack. The kind of flexibility he provides a defense can take pressure off all three phases of a football team. Dominant defenders rarely hit the open market — look at what Dallas and Detroit were forced to do this offseason in putting the franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence and Ziggy Ansah, respectively, despite each carrying a lot of questions.
Think Oakland would just let Mack walk after the season? Jon Gruden, who certainly seems to be flexing his muscles here, theoretically could tag Mack twice more, preventing him from seeing free agency until he's on the cusp of 30.
Remember, we saw the mastermind in Bill Belichick attempt to eschew the draft last year for plug-and-play difference makers, because he didn't want to spend time developing them with a Hall of Fame quarterback on the back nine.
Even Mack was relatively quiet as a rookie before emerging as a star in Year Two, so there's a reason the price tag is so high — Mack can help the right team win a Super Bowl this season, whereas depending on lesser proven players requires more patience.
Con No. 3 — Potentially special 2019 pass-rushing draft class looms
Ohio State's Nick Bosa and Houston's Ed Oliver are the headliners, but Michigan's Rashan Gary and Clemson's Clelin Ferrell and Christian Wilkins, among others, help give the 2019 draft the early look of a rare group. Would teams that expect to pick again in the top 10, potentially the Jets, Colts and Bears, be better off waiting on one of these studs, knowing they'll spend a fraction of the cost on a younger option?
Make no mistake: We're not predicting any of these players will be the next Mack, but there might be some front offices that envision similar upside.