Last week, after Raiders coach Jon Gruden took a backhanded shot at holdout defensive end Khalil Mack, it was suggested in one specific corner of the Internet that maybe the Raiders haven’t given Mack the long-term deal he wants not because they won’t but because they can’t — and that maybe the Raiders should consider trading Mack to a team that can and will pay him what he deserves.
On Tuesday, Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com explained that, of all the players on the Oakland roster who could be traded in the preseason, Mack could be the one to watch. Gutierrez suggests that the Raiders “would be silly to not at least listen” to an offer of a first-round pick for Mack, which could be an indirect way for the Raiders to put out the word that they’d perhaps consider accepting a first-round pick for Mack.
The better approach would seem to be to squat on Mack until he shows up, to pay him at a rate of more than $800,000 per week for the balance of 2018, to apply the franchise tag next year, and to see whether anyone signs him to an offer sheet. A team drafting late in round one may indeed by inclined to give up a pair of first-rounders to get Mack, which obviously is much more than the single first-round pick that Gutierrez suggests the Raiders should consider right now.
There continues to be no evidence that the Raiders and Mack are talking about a long-term deal, and Gutierrez’s blurb includes a reference to G.M. Reggie McKenzie asking Gutierrez in March whether he had an extra $100 million to devote to the effort to pay Mack. So it quite possibly comes down to whether the Raiders can fund the contract, which will start with a requirement to cut a large signing bonus check and to place into escrow most of the fully-guaranteed money to be paid out in future years.
Without a chance to scrutinize the Raiders’ books, it’s impossible to know whether they have that kind of cash on hand — and it’s possible that they simply don’t.