Oakland Raiders: Should Keep A Wary Eye On Von Miller Contract Flap

Dec 7, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders outside linebacker Khalil Mack (52) celebrates behind San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore (21) after a Raiders sack against the 49ers during the second quarter at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 7, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders outside linebacker Khalil Mack (52) celebrates behind San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore (21) after a Raiders sack against the 49ers during the second quarter at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports /

The Oakland Raiders should be keeping a nervous eye on the ongoing contract fiasco between Von Miller and the Denver Broncos, since it could potentially impact dealings with their own superstar.

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The Oakland Raiders are in the midst of what many believe to be a renaissance. With smart free agent acquisitions and solid drafting, GM Reggie McKenzie has shrewdly built this team from the ground up. Today, this is a team that has the talent and potential to end a rather dubious streak – thirteen seasons without a winning record – and one that seems capable of battling for a playoff berth.

McKenzie has managed to turn the Raiders, a perennial doormat over the last decade plus, into a team on the rise in part, by acquiring foundation pieces like Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, and Khalil Mack. He’s added savvy, productive veterans like Rodney Hudson, Dan Williams, Michael Crabtree, and Donald Penn, as well as brought in big name free agents like Kelechi Osemele, Sean Smith, Reggie Nelson, and Bruce Irvin.

But McKenzie’s rebuild has been as successful as it has been because he’s managed the cap very wisely, and hasn’t broken the bank for a player well past his prime – which was unfortunately, something the late Al Davis did far too often over the last few years of his life.

McKenzie has been smart, savvy, and shrewd as he’s navigated his way through the contract hell Davis left him, and now has the team back on an upward trajectory once more.

But of course, success comes with a hefty price tag. Just as John Elway and the Denver Broncos. It seemed to be a given that a deal would get done sooner rather than later, to keep Super Bowl MVP Von Miller in the blue and orange for life. And it very well still may come to pass. But there is no denying that the negotiations to make that happen have taken a rather ugly turn in the last few days.

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When word leaked out that Denver’s six year, $114.5 million dollar deal for Miller had been taken off the table, it raised some eyebrows. But as the details have slowly trickled out, while some eyebrows are still raised of course, there are things that are a whole lot more clear.

It appears that the biggest sticking point for Miller is the amount of money over the first three years of the contract. Miller is asking for $70 million over the first three, while the Broncos are apparently offering $39.5 million over the first two.

Given the fact that the Dolphins are paying Ndamukong Suh $60 million over the first three years of his deal – and Miller is far and away the better player – it makes sense that he would want his deal to surpass that of Suh’s. Fair enough.

It’s a situation that seems to be growing uglier and more tense by the day, what with Miller cropping Elway out of photos on his Instagram, and what have you. A deal will likely get done and Miller will likely remain a Bronco, but it’s a situation that has been unexpectedly dramatic.

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So why should the Raiders be keeping a wary eye as this situation unfolds? One big reason – Khalil Mack.

Mack is entering the third year of his deal – the standard rookie deal that is four years for almost $19 million dollars. The Raiders also hold a fifth year option on Mack which, since he was a top ten pick, will pay him an average of the top ten salaries in the league at his position. It will be a nice bump in pay, to be sure.

But the Raiders, if they want to keep him past year five – and they most certainly will – are going to need to pony up some serious cash to do it. And that is what makes the Von Miller situation applicable in this case.

Statistically speaking, Mack was just as good as Miller last season – better in some statistical categories. It stands to reason that once his rookie deal and fifth year option have expired, Mack is going to want to be paid just as well as Miller – or more likely, even better.

And rightly so. If her performs among the best in the league, he deserves to be paid among the best in the league.

But this is where the road gets tricky. With foundation pieces like Carr and Cooper needing new deals over the next couple of years, and then throw in guys like Justin Ellis, Gabe Jackson, perhaps David Amerson whom the team would likely want to re-sign, and there is a whole lot of money that is going to need to be earmarked. A whole lot of money.

Oakland Raiders
Sep 27, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Oakland Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack (52) forces a fumble by Cleveland Browns quarterback Josh McCown (13) in a NFL game at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Raiders defeated the Browns 27-20. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

Which leads us back to Miller and his contract situation. If Miller is asking for $70 million over the first three years of a six year pact, it’s not unreasonable to think that Mack is likely going to want something in the same neighborhood – which could potentially put McKenzie behind the 8-ball in terms of juggling the cap as well as the contract demands of franchise type players.

Thankfully, it is still a couple of years off and McKenzie will be able to kick the can down the road a bit. But he’s going to want to avoid waiting too long before he starts talking extension with Mack. Just as Denver’s defense would not be the same without Miller, the Raiders defense would not be the same without a player as versatile, formidable, and ferocious as Mack.

Heading into his third season, Mack is already as dominant as Miller and J.J. Watt. He’s a player teams have to game plan for and be aware of at all times. And now, with some actual help on that side of the ball, Mack is poised to have an even bigger year for the Raiders.

And as the clock begins to tick down on his rookie deal, the Raiders are going to have to be concerned with how to make sure their superstars are taken care of, but at the same time, not hamstringing the club financially.

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Thus far, McKenzie has proved incredibly adept at managing the cap and maintaining a talented roster. But the Miller contract fiasco shows that homegrown superstars are going to be pricey to keep. And given that the Raiders have several of them who are going to command big dollars, it’s going to be a real test of McKenzie’s ability as a cap-master.

Having some success and some superstar players comes with a steep price tag. Let’s just hope McKenzie and the Raiders can find a way to foot the bill while remaining competitive.