More than one time since the Chicago Bears’ offseason program began, a certain commenter on The Loop Sports’ articles has suggested that Chicago should trade for Khalil Mack.
At the time, those comments were brushed off as crazy and obscenely optimistic. Mack is the pride and joy of Oakland, he seemed perfectly happy with the Raiders, and he’s a precious asset at pass rusher who is worth his weight in gold. To acquire Khalil Mack, the Bears would have to pry him from Oakland’s cold, dead hands.
Fast-forward to the present day. That idea, to trade for a transcendent talent with a motor that could win the Indy 500, doesn’t seem nearly as unrealistic as it did then and is rapidly approaching the realm of possibility.
Throughout the past month, Mack has sat out training camp and one preseason game – which unless something drastic happens is about to turn into two – in search of a lucrative contract extension. He has not spoken to new Raiders head coach Jon Gruden since the longtime coach and Monday Night Football broadcaster was hired, and neither side is making much if any, progress on a new deal.
Ever since Mack’s situation grew toxic in Oakland, Chicago fans have displayed a plethora of reactions, from mild intrigue on the low end to buying customized $500 Khalil Mack Bears jersey on the high end. CBS’s Joel Corry noticed those mild flames and proceeded to pour a gallon of gasoline on them when he listed the Bears as one of five teams he could see making a move for the dominant edge rusher.
It’s safe to say that this predicament in Oakland has gotten to the point where a move could potentially happen soon if Gruden panics or gets angry enough. And given Chicago’s desperate need for a pass rusher opposite Leonard Floyd, the Bears do seem like a natural fit. This begs three essential questions. First of all:
1. Will the Raiders trade Khalil Mack?
It’s tough to say right now because they do not appear to be taking offers at the moment, as the Gruden-led Raiders do have hope that either a new deal can be reached or Mack will end his holdout before the start of the regular season. This gives the Raiders three options.
The first is the one I would choose, which is just extend the man. Mack is the best player on the Oakland Raiders and it’s not very close. He is one of the top players in the league at a premium position and is a safe bet to play sixteen games every year, doing so throughout each of his first four in the NFL. Write a check, sign it, and let him put whatever number he wants on it. Oakland seems to be playing hardball for the time being, though, so let’s move on to option two.
The second choice is to call Mack’s bluff and hope he chooses to join the team and play out the one-year remainder of his contract. Mack’s camp has made it clear that he will not step foot on a field until he gets his money, but a player with Mack’s drive to compete won’t like being away from regular season football for long. For the time being, this is what I think Gruden would prefer to do.
Finally, the Raiders could put Mack on the trade block. If Gruden grows tired of Mack being away from the team or fears losing him for nothing through free agency, he could open up the bidding and trade Mack for young players, draft picks, or some combination of the two (more on that later). As of right now, I don’t think they pull the trigger. As much as I despise Gruden’s strategy of being cheap with his best player, he is not stupid and has more patience than a petulant five-year-old. I don’t think the Raiders are considering a trade – yet.
2. If Oakland does choose to deal Khalil Mack, should the Bears attempt to trade for him?
I don’t need to explain this any further. If an asset as rare as Mack becomes available at your most desperate position of need, you do everything in your power to bring him in. And if you do, you give him any amount of money his heart desires.
3. What would it cost?
Based on speculation and knowledge of what NFL teams value, I would put the price for Mack at a minimum of either two first-round picks or Roquan Smith and a first-round pick, with Oakland leaning towards wanting the latter. The Bears may also have to throw a mid to late rounder or two in to complete the deal.
I use Smith in this proposal for a couple of reasons. Souring on his quality as a player or bitterness about his recently ended contract dispute is NOT included. His holdout, in the long run, will not be a problem for Chicago whatsoever and I think he’s going to be a fantastic inside linebacker. However, if Oakland asked for him – and it’s logical that they would, he’s a young asset entering a rookie contract who fits one of their biggest needs – in exchange for Khalil Mack, goodbye Roquan Smith.
While not nearly as talented of a player, I’ll gladly take Nick Kwiatkoski with Mack in the Bears’ starting lineup instead of Smith and Sam Acho, Aaron Lynch, or Kylie Fitts. And remember – getting after the quarterback is the most important thing a defense can do, and very few do it better than the 27-year-old out of Buffalo.
If two firsts instead of Smith and a first get the deal done, then bravo Ryan Pace. But I am hesitant to believe that would be enough.
Whatever the cost, short of something completely insane, the Bears should be grateful to part with it in order to acquire Khalil Mack. I would bet against it coming to fruition, as the Raiders will certainly be hesitant to part with him, but if his holdout goes beyond the point of no return, Pace should give Jon Gruden an offer he can’t refuse.
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