Oakland Raiders: Mike Florio shows us that you can’t always have it all

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 17: Khalil Mack #52 of the Chicago Bears encourages the crowd to cheer against the Seattle Seahawks at Soldier Field on September 17, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Seahawks 24-17. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 17: Khalil Mack #52 of the Chicago Bears encourages the crowd to cheer against the Seattle Seahawks at Soldier Field on September 17, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Seahawks 24-17. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Oakland Raiders HC Jon Gruden has been lambasted since trading Khalil Mac k – but, PFT’s Mike Florio shows us that you can’t always have it all.

Everything the Oakland Raiders do this season – most especially if it’s in the negative column – will be viewed through the Khalil Mack prism.

Run defense sucks? Wouldn’t if we’d had Mack setting the edge. Pass defense sucks? Wouldn’t if we had Mack pressuring the quarterback. Not scoring enough points? Logic be damned, we’d be putting up 50 points a game if we still had Mack. The climate change problem could be avoided if — okay, you get the point.

The fact of the matter is that, it was a no-win situation, no matter which way you slice it. You drop the $141 million dollar contract – with $90 million guaranteed – on Mack that the Bears did, you hamstring yourself when fleshing out the roster.

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Or, you do what the Raiders did – trade him, collect a bounty of draft picks, and try to ride out the firestorm of criticism everybody and their mother is heaping upon them. Public backlash can be a nasty thing – as Gruden is fast finding out.

It’s probably safe to say that the bloom is most definitely off the rose, and Gruden’s honeymoon period with the Raider Nation is officially over.

And now that it is – especially in the wake of an 0-2 start – and that Khalil Mack prism many, if not most, are seeing through, is only getting more magnified, and more intense.

In an ideal world, the Raiders would have been able to pay Mack, keep him, and let him wreak havoc on opposing defenses. But, this is not an ideal world, unfortunately. Things like economics, the salary cap – and actually having to assemble a 53-man roster – make it less than ideal.

The rising market for players at critical positions, also makes it increasingly difficult for a team to retain every single one of its key players – unless you’re the New England Patriots, apparently.

As was the case with Mack.

Though there is considerable pushback against the idea that the Raiders couldn’t afford both Mack and quarterback Derek Carr and his $25 million dollar a year deal – let’s not forget, it was made a lot easier on Chicago since he’s only in year two of his rookie deal – ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio lays it out very concisely.

Though, Florio wasn’t talking about the Raiders specifically – he was talking about underwhelming former first round pick Laquon Treadwell of the Minnesota Vikings – the issue he brings up applies to Oakland’s situation with Mack directly.

The key passage in his piece:

"“The fact that Treadwell had been clinging to the No. 3 spot behind Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen (or Thielen and Diggs) speaks to depth issues that arise when a team pays out big contracts to multiple key players on both sides of the ball. If either Diggs or Thielen get injured, the Vikings will have a mess at the receiver position.”"

The key passage in that quote is highlighted. Paying Carr – and then Mack’s deal on top of it – would count for about 25 percent of Oakland’s total cap space. To two guys.

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Then, you’d have to factor in the deals already on the books – a number of one-year deals to players that will either need to be extended (if possible), or replacements found. There are also contracts for other key players to deal with.

So – where do you make the cuts?

Do you jettison somebody like a Rodney Hudson? Kelechi Osemele? Do you skimp on the offensive line? Do you get rid of guys like Bruce Irvin? Do you skimp in the secondary? Where exactly do you make the cuts that will allow you to afford such a mammoth deal? On top of the mammoth deal already on the books?

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And let’s also not forget that Amari Cooper‘s rookie deal is coming due on the not too distant horizon – and given that Cooper shares an agent with Mack, don’t expect the Raiders to get a hometown discount. If a player less accomplished than Cooper – we’re looking at you Stefon Diggs – can get more than $16 million a year, Cooper is going to be demanding just as much. And probably more.

Gruden had to make a calculated decision in an impossible situation, and he chose to rip the band-aid off now, rather than let the wound continue to linger, fester, and eventually, infect and rot everything around it.

Face it, had they paid Mack what Chicago did, it would have necessitated skimping elsewhere. They would have had to build the rest of the roster on the cheap, with lower tier players. And when those lower tier players didn’t perform at a high level – and the team did not get better – you had better believe the howls of the Nation would have been loud and lusty.

Now, the Raiders have two first-round picks in the next two drafts. They can start accruing young talent, and won’t need to flesh out the roster with high priced veterans on one-year deals.

Although, they will now have the flexibility to sign a few big ticket players to complement the roster.

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It’s not ideal. In an ideal world, Mack would be wearing the Silver and Black for the rest of his career. Nobody wanted to see him in any other uniform – except, of course, for every other team and fanbase that wanted him.

But, as we hear so often, the NFL is a business. And in this case, Gruden and Reggie McKenzie had to think about the overall health, viability, and sustainability of the team. They had to think about building a complete roster, rather than a roster comprised of two superstars in Mack and Carr, and a bunch of spare parts.

It’s not ideal. But, this world is not an ideal place.