Oakland Raiders Should Not Sacrifice The Future By Trading For Mo Wilkerson

Nov 29, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (96) celebrates his sack of Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17)(not shown) during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 29, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (96) celebrates his sack of Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17)(not shown) during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports /

The Oakland Raiders are in the early stages of a renaissance, but trading for Mo Wilkerson as Jason La Canfora suggests, could potentially sacrifice the future.

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Through smart drafting, savvy free agent dealing, and a ton of patience, Oakland Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie has made this storied franchise relevant once again. And given the moves – or lack of moves – among their AFC West foes, McKenzie has also made the Raiders a serious contender for a division title this season.

The outlook in the East Bay is rosier than it has been in a long, long time and yet, CBSSports’ Jason La Canfora wants McKenzie to take it one step further and trade for disgruntled Jets star Muhammad Wilkerson – which could potentially jeopardize the future.

Though Wilkerson is a monster and would undoubtedly put even more teeth into a defense that is starting to look like a beast, trading for Wilkerson would be a bad idea. And one that could potentially have negative ramifications for the team at some point in the not too distant future.

There is no telling what it would take for the Jets to part with Wilkerson. La Canfora, in his article, suggests that while at the upcoing owner’s meetings in Florida, Mark Davis should offer Jets owner Woody Johnson a “couple of second rounders” to take the troublesome Wilkerson off his hands – troublesome because they’re reportedly not even close to coming to an agreement on a deal.

It makes a lot of sense for the Jets to try and trade Wilkerson. They slapped him with the franchise tag – more than likely to keep him from hitting the open market rather than from a genuine interest in keeping him. The Jets have a wealth of talent on the defensive side of the ball already.

What they don’t have is a lot of money. They currently have just under $3 million in cap space available – Wilkerson’s franchise tag is costing them very nearly $16 million for the season. A pretty healthy chunk of change and second on the team just behind cornerback Darrelle Revis.

Another thing the Jets don’t currently have is a quarterback. It’s doubtful that the Jets are wanting to roll into the 2016 season with Geno Smith under center, given the problems with consistency – among other things – that have plagued him throughout his career. And not when Ryan Fitzpatrick led them to 10-6 record – barely missing out on a playoff spot.

Fitzpatrick and the Jets continue to negotiate, but are reportedly pretty far apart in terms of numbers. Which means that Wilkerson’s $16 million is weighing pretty heavily on their minds. Given their surplus of defensive talent already, it makes sense for them to part ways with Wilkerson and scrape up every last penny, nickel, and dime from between the couch cushions to throw at Fitzpatrick.

Except for the part where Woody Johnson is determined to extract a pound of flesh from whomever wants to take him off their hands.

Enter the Raiders – at least in La Canfora’s thinking. After their free agent shopping spree, the Raiders currently have a little more than $25 million left in the bank. To nab Wilkerson, they would have to pony up just about $16 million of that – and in La Canfora’s scenario, part with a couple of draft picks.

Knowing McKenzie the way we do, we know there is little more that he covets in his role as GM than draft picks. He collects them like some people collect baseball cards – and hoards them like a dragon hoards gold. Though he infuses the team with veteran talent through free agency, his philosophy is that you build a team through the draft – a philosophy that seems to be paying big dividends right about now.

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And given the way the market for premier pass rushers has gone, it very well may be too rich for McKenzie’s blood. Rightly so. What, with the megadeals signed by Malik Jackson ($85.5 million – $42 million guaranteed), Olivier Vernon ($85 million – $52.5 million guaranteed), the market for premier pass rushers has gone through the stratosphere, and Wilkerson, no slouch of a pass rusher himself, is likely looking to land a deal within that Jackson-Vernon range.

Had it been earlier in free agency, perhaps making a trade for Wilkerson would have made sense – and perhaps been a bit more feasible. But having signed Bruce Irvin and Sean Smith to pretty lucrative deals, the Raiders defense is in far better shape today than it was at any point last season. They finally have a ferocious pass rusher to bookend with Khalil Mack and they finally have a cornerback who can help lock down one side of the field to pair with David Amerson.

And let’s not forget that there is every likelihood that Aldon Smith, when he’s eligble to return to the league in November, will be doing so in a Silver and Black jersey.

A front seven that includes Mack, Irvin, Justin Ellis, Dan Williams, Smith, and if he’s healthy and ready to go, Mario Edwards Jr., is pretty fearsome as it is. Throw in Neiron Ball, Ben Heeney, Denico Autry, and if they match Dallas’ offer sheet, Benson Mayowa, and you have a seriously formidable defensive front.

Would adding Wilkerson make it that much more fearsome? Yeah, absolutely. Wilkerson is a beast. Adding him would most assuredly make this an elite-level defense. But you know what? This very well may be an elite-level defense without him.

Though La Canfora, in his Wilkerson-to-the-Raiders delirium, is seemingly already predicting the downfall of a couple of key additions – which of course, would free up the cap space to sign Wilkerson to a mammoth deal. Per La Confora’s article:

"“But, I’d also note, that if Irvin does not work out — he’s had off field issues before — that deal could be for as little as one season (at $12.5 million). And if Smith’s play slips and or if he suffers off-field issues again (he was suspended for four games in Kansas City last year), well, that deal could be as little as one year, $11 million. Yes, the true guarantees at the time of signing for both players equals $23.5 million, and they can be out of both after one season if need be. And McKenzie’s patience resulted in him getting Penn at a bargain price as well.”"

That’s a whole lot of “if’s” and “maybe’s,” isn’t it? To the cynical eye, it almost reads as if La Canfora is rooting for the Irvin and Smith deals to not work out. Otherwise, why even bring up Irvin and Smith’s off the field issues or bother speculating about their play slipping? Shouldn’t we at least see them take a snap or two in a Raiders jersey before predicting their downfall?

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Also, let’s not forget that McKenzie not only has to earmark money for his incoming draft class – a class which very well may include another pass rusher – but also for some hefty contracts on the horizon.

Given their importance to the franchise and its rebirth, it seems highly unlikely that McKenzie is going to let cornerstone pieces like Derek Carr, Khalil Mack, Gabe Jackson, Justin Ellis, Amari Cooper, and D.J. Hayden – okay, just kidding, scratch Hayden off that list – walk away after their rookie contracts are up. And given the market as well as their unique talents – and again, their aforementioned importance to the franchise – those are going to be some meaty contracts the likes of which the Raiders have never paid out before. It’s going to cost a ton to keep them all.

Which makes paying Wilkerson the extravagant sum of money he’s looking for a non-starter. Because not only will the Raiders need to pay their cornerstone guys, they’re going to need to have enough money left over to pay a strong supporting cast as well. At least, if they plan on staying in contention — which given all indications, they plan on doing.

La Canfora goes on to make his case – such as it is – by speculating about the possiblity of the Raiders moving to LA. Per La Canfora’s article:

"“…and the fact is if the Chargers pass on moving to Los Angeles with the Rams, well, Davis will have his team there in nanoseconds; if you are going to L.A., you’d better be ready to win and win people over and have ample star power.”"

Derek Carr? Khalil Mack? Amari Cooper? Sounds like the Raiders are already doing okay in the star power department. Not only that, but perhaps La Canfora hasn’t spent much time in LA, but the Raiders already have a very large and very vibrant fan base. Given that the Raiders have a very good roster, a number of players who are stars in the making, are a team that is very much on the rise, and still have a very strong following in LA, the presence of Mo Wilkerson isn’t going to make or break season ticket sales in the City of Angels should they move there.

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Which is precisely why Stan Kroenke doesn’t want the Raiders in LA – he knows the Silver and Black, even in a down year, will outdraw his Rams. By far.

The Raiders are very much headed in the right direction. The vision and blueprint laid out by McKenzie is working to perfection and they are a team on the rise. They should contend for an AFC West crown this year. While having a player of Wilkerson’s caliber would certainly elevate the defense, it’s not worth the cost down the road to this team. Not when things are progressing as well as they are.