(Note: I am a moron and don’t know anything. I’ve made plenty of mistakes and I’m sure I made some in this article as well. Feel free to let me know how I screwed up by tweeting me @JacksonKrueger. At the end of the day I’m not an expert, just a guy having fun by talking about sports. Hope you enjoy.)
Blockbuster trades don’t happen too often in the NFL, and it’s even more rare when they happen just 5 days before the season starts. But that exact thing happened when The Oakland Raiders traded former defensive player of the year Khalil Mack, along with a 2020 second round pick and a conditional 5th round pick, in exchange for the Chicago Bears next two first round picks, a 2020 third round pick and a 2019 sixth round pick. The general consensus seems to be than the Raiders got fleeced. And for a pretty valid reason, they lost a fantastic player. However is it as bad as people are making it out to be? Well that remains to be seen.
The first thing that has to be mentioned is the amount of money is was going to take for Oakland to keep Mack as a Raider. Chicago gave Mack an extension which gave him $23.5 million per year for 6 years. That’s the largest contract any non quarterback has ever received. In fact, it’s the tenth highest contract period. Only 1.5 million less then Drew Brees, who receives $25 million per year. Another man who receives $25 million per year is Raiders Quarterback Derek Carr. If Oakland kept Mack and gave him the same contract Chicago did, that would mean $48.5 million would go to Mack and Carr, which means 27.4% of Oakland’s total cap space would go to just two players. With a 53 man roster it would make it awfully difficult to fill out the rest of their roster with talent. Last season The Eagles won the Super Bowl with only 1 player who made over $10 million, and that was Alshon Jeffery who made $10,750,000. Oakland certainly has an eye on total cap space, they cut Marquette King to clear up cap space earlier this year.
A totally unfair comparison
Let’s take the Patriots for example. Because when a team’s been successful for so long, you probably take note of some of the things they do well. New England’s has become known for many things, one of which is the fact that they refuse to overpay players. they only have four contracts where players make over $10 million, and the only player who makes over $13 million is Tom Brady. They don’t overpay for players, and despite how talented Mack is, $23.5 million per year is an over payment for any non-quarterback in my opinion. New England decided $16.5 million for defensive end Chandler Jones wasn’t worth it, and so they traded him for a second round pick and Jonathan Cooper (who’s no longer in the league). While Jones went on to lead the league in sacks for Arizona last year, New England’s gone to two Super Bowls since losing Jones. Obviously there were plenty of other reasons that factored into that, and it’s totally unfair to compare Bill Belichick to Jon Gruden. Belichick is fantastic at finding talented players who nobody else is looking at and turning them into valuable assets. However I’m more or less talking about the principle of the strategy. If you don’t pay star players a large sum of money, you can build a solid team with no holes (at least in theory). Especially when it comes to defense, in the NFL you can’t have holes on your roster. Take a look at Tampa Bay, despite having plenty of star power on defense with Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander, they were the worst defense in the league last year. I think Gruden feels as though he won’t be able to build a complete defense with Mack taking up a large portion of cap space. and whether you agree or disagree with that decision, it appears that was Oakland’s reasoning. And if you can get a couple of first round picks out of it why not?
Well enough about the Raiders, let’s take a look at this trade from Chicago’s perspective. The fact of the matter is, if you had two first round picks one year, and you drafted a bust and Khalil Mack, you’d probably feel pretty good about yourself. There’s a better chance that Khalil Mack ends up being great for the Bears, than Chicago drafting someone as talented as Khalil’s Mack. Obviously having two good players is better then one, but if Chicago feels they have a talented team as it is, then why not try to add a star? However I’m not sure I think Chicago is ready to truly compete yet. NFL writer Elliot Harrison has the Bears 24th out of the 32 teams. Perhaps with adding Mack they’ll get better, however I’d be surprised if Chicago makes the playoffs this year. And since they don’t have a first round pick next year, it would make improving to the next level that much more difficult. Not to mention defense if the least of Chicago’s worries. They gave up the tenth least amount of yards last year, but were third worst in total offensive yards. If Mitch Trubisky doesn’t improve going into his second year, Chicago could end up stuck in mediocrity. However if the Bears do get a competent offense, it could allow Chicago to make a run for the playoffs this season.
How much is one star worth?
There’s a saying among sports, “if you have a chance to get a star player, you get the star player”. While in many cases that’s true, it’s not in every case. Famously Dallas gave up Herschel Walker, but got a ton of picks back which led to them starting a dynasty. The Oilers traded Wayne Gretzky and went on to win another Stanley Cup. But those are a couple of extreme examples. This marks the ninth time a team has traded multiple first round picks for a player. It’s worked out a couple of time, with the aforementioned Herschel Walker trade, and the time Denver traded Jay Cutler for a couple of first round picks in 2009, which helped set up a couple of super bowl appearances (also Peyton Manning signing there factored it a little). The only real example of it working out for the team who gave up two first round picks was when Tampa Bay gave up two first round picks for Keyshawn Johnson. While they went on to win the Super Bowl two years later, I don’t think it’s really fair to say it was because of Keyshawn Johnson (although he certainly helped). Also this is completely irrelevant to the topic of this article, but Tampa Bay also gave away two first round picks and two second round picks for Jon Gruden. They just really didn’t like drafting in the first round I guess.
At the end of the day, I think this trade’s a gamble for both teams. For Oakland, they’re gambling on the fact that they can find cheaper talent elsewhere to build a complete defense. Jon Gruden said himself, “We weren’t very good last year on defense with Khalil Mack”. While it probably means the Raiders are looking at an uphill battle to make the playoffs in 2018, if they draft well it could pay off very well in future seasons. As for the Bears, it really depends on their offense. Adding Mack to an already good defense can be a huge help for them. However if Trubiski isn’t the franchise quarterback they hope he is it could leave the Bears in a bit of a tricky situation. A lot of times gambles don’t work out, and a lot of people will mock teams who’ve made mistakes. However at the end of the day, only one team wins the Super Bowl, and the other thirty-one don’t. You have to take chances if you’re going to be successful, and I give credit to both these teams for taking a chance.
“you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”