ALAMEDA, Calif. — It has been a year and eight days since the Oakland Raiders stunned the NFL by trading All-Pro edge rusher Khalil Mack, who was holding out, to the Chicago Bears in a deal that sent shock waves that are still reverberating around the league.
No, it’s not only because the Raiders dealt away someone whom Hall of Famer Howie Long called a generational player in his prime, though the knee-jerk reaction of the move was to rip Oakland’s returning-from-the-TV-booth coach, Jon Gruden, who would infamously say that pass-rushers are hard to find. It’s also because of the far-reaching ramifications of the deal, one that has still-evolving tentacles and will continue to grow for the foreseeable future.
To wit: Oakland traded Mack, a second-round pick in 2020 and a conditional 2020 fifth-rounder to the Bears for their first-round pick in 2019, their sixth-rounder in 2019, their first-rounder in 2020 and their third-rounder in 2020.
At the end of the 2018 season, it looked like a lopsided deal … in favor of the Bears. All they did was ride the game-changing Mack, who would have made $13 million on the fifth-year option with Oakland but instead got $90 million guaranteed on his six-year, $141 million extension with Chicago, to an NFC North title and their first playoff berth since 2010. Consider: Mack’s 12.5 sacks were nearly as many as the 13 the Raiders had as a team, his six forced fumbles were one more than Oakland generated, his two fumble recoveries were one fewer than the Raiders had, and both Mack and the Raiders defense had one touchdown. While Mack was named All-Pro, Oakland had no All-Pro selections on defense.
And yet …
The Raiders were lauded for the trade by Richard Thaler, the 2017 Nobel Memorial Prize winner in Economic Sciences, who at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference dubbed the Mack trade the best sports transaction.
“I think it was the only award we got last year,” Gruden cracked at the NFL owners meetings in the spring.
Ready to see what the Raiders were able to get for Mack in the draft, directly and indirectly? Hold your breath …
How acquired: With the Bears’ first-round pick, No. 24 overall. That was straightforward, right? Hold on.
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How acquired: With the No. 40 overall pick, which took a circuitous path to Oakland. Plug your nose for this deep dive. First, the Raiders traded the Bears’ sixth-round selection (No. 196 overall) and former All-Pro left guard Kelechi Osemele, who had a $10.2 million salary-cap number for 2019, to the New York Jets for the Jets’ fifth-round pick (No. 140). The Jets used the No. 196 selection on Rutgers cornerback Blessuan Austin. The Raiders then traded the No. 140 pick and their second-round selection (No. 35) to the Jacksonville Jaguars for the Jaguars’ second-rounder (No. 38) and fourth-rounder (No. 109). The Jaguars used the No. 35 pick to select Florida offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor and No. 140 to draft Temple running back Ryquell Armstead. The Raiders then traded the No. 38 pick to the Buffalo Bills for the Bills’ second-rounder at No. 40 overall and their fifth-rounder at No. 158 overall. (This pick was originally traded from the Pittsburgh Steelers to the Raiders for receiver Ryan Switzer and then sent to the Bills for quarterback AJ McCarron before the Bills sent the selection back to Oakland in this trade.) The Bills used the 38th pick on Oklahoma tackle Cody Ford, while the Raiders used No. 40 on Mullen. Whew!
Outlook: Mullen might not be able to sing very well (“Hard Knocks,” anyone?), but he will be a rotational corner and could start within two years.
How acquired: With the No. 129 overall pick, which also came to Oakland via trade. Because after Oakland traded No. 109, which had been acquired from Jacksonville, to Indianapolis for the Colts’ two fourth-round selections (Nos. 129 and 135), the Colts used 109 to take Michigan State safety Khari Willis. Johnson came to Oakland 20 picks later.
Outlook: The Raiders were high on Johnson before he suffered a concussion and facial fractures from an inadvertent knee from teammate Marquel Lee in the preseason opener. Johnson was placed on injured reserve after being on the team’s initial 53-man roster, so he is a candidate to be activated midseason.
How acquired: With the No. 137 overall selection, which was acquired by a trade of No. 135 (see above) for Nos. 137 and 230 with the Atlanta Falcons. After the Falcons used 135 on Charleston defensive end John Cominsky, the Raiders used 137 on Moreau.
How acquired: With the No. 149 overall selection, which was obtained in a trade that included the much-traveled No. 158 pick. The Raiders had traded that 158th selection (see the detailed explanation in the Mullen selection) and their seventh-rounder at No. 218 to Dallas for the Cowboys’ selection at No. 149 and used it on Renfrow. The Cowboys used 158 on Miami cornerback Michael Jackson and 218 on Ohio State running back Mike Weber.
Outlook: In a roundabout way, the Raiders traded Switzer for Renfrow and got a player with a similar skill set as a sure-handed slot receiver, a quarterback’s best friend on third down.
How acquired: With the No. 230 overall pick, which was acquired from Atlanta (see the Moreau breakdown).
Outlook: The converted receiver, who is also a nephew of 1991 second-round pick and former Iowa running back Nick Bell, was waived after camp but signed to Oakland’s practice squad.
OK, exhale. Yeah, that was a lot to digest, especially when you consider how much the Raiders were able to flip on that sixth-round pick from the Bears, essentially going from the No. 1 selection to 5 … with some help from the Osemele trade.
In fact, as Gruden tells it, dealing Osemele and Mack, along with receiver Amari Cooper, during the season, freed up enough money to allow the Raiders to go whole hog in free agency.
Because while quarterback Derek Carr was already under contract at an average of $25 million per year, re-upping Mack and Cooper to market deals would have tied Oakland up to about $65 million a year on those three. The Raiders were able to get receiver Antonio Brown ($19 million annual average) in a trade for third- and fifth-round picks, and right tackle Trent Brown ($17 million), receiver Tyrell Williams ($11 million) and defensive back Lamarcus Joyner ($10.5 million) in free agency. So four players at a cheaper cost than three, with roughly $7.5 million to spare.
Still, the Raiders will forever be chasing Mack, who was the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2016, in the eyes of many. And the Raiders used the No. 4 overall selection on Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell and a fourth-round pick (No. 106 overall) on Eastern Michigan defensive end Maxx Crosby. That’s called drafting for need.
No pressure, gentlemen. None at all. Just kick back and watch what the Raiders do with the Bears’ first- and third-rounders next year. Now that’s pressure.