And it was more than just the absence of Mack’s pass-rushing skills that hurt the Raiders.
“No matter what nobody says, we tried to overcome it, but when you trade your best player away in the beginning of the year, it takes a toll on guys,” offensive tackle Donald Penn said on NFL Total Access. “Whether they say it or not. We fought through it. We tried to stay together. It was a tough season.
“Khalil Mack is one of my good friends. I’m happy he did what he did. But I knew kind of when I saw Aaron Donald sign that deal, I kind of knew in the back of my head that we weren’t going to be able to sign Khalil cause all the money he was going to ask for. I knew what [Jon] Gruden was coming from cause I might know different cause I been in the league for so long. I know it’s a business.”
The Raiders weren’t willing to pay Mack what the Bears did — $141 million — and Cooper’s pay day also was on the horizon. So Oakland cleared cap space and collected draft picks, though the draft picks are not nearly as high as the Raiders hoped.
“This year we have all these draft picks. We have all this cap room,” Penn said. “If we would’ve signed Khalil, we might not have that. I understand kind of why he traded Cooper away too cause now we have another draft pick, and we have more cap room cause Cooper would’ve had to get signed this offseason. It’s not my decision. My decision, I would’ve kept Coop. I love Coop. That’s my boy.
“But at the end of the day, I’ve been in the league for 13 years. I know a business. That’s a business decision that’s made. I’m behind Gruden. Guys are behind Gruden. We’re ready to get to work and turn this thing around.”