The Raiders won’t see a return on trading Khalil Mack until next year at the earliest. The Chicago Bears gave up first-round picks in 2019 and 2020, a 2020 third-round pick and a 2019 second-round pick. The Raiders handed the star edge rusher over with a 2020 second-rounder and a conditional 202 fifth-round pick.

No players are coming back to help this year’s roster.

Those draft picks could help remake the Raiders in the long run. So could the financial flexibility gained by not paying Mack crazy cash.

Head coach Jon Gruden will have tools at his disposal to vastly improve the Raiders.

The Las Vegas Raiders, anyway.

The 2018 Oakland Raiders got worse on Saturday. There’s no arguing that. This year’s team gave up Khalil Mack and got nothing in return. Losing an All-Pro, someone Gruden recently called the team’s best player, is a severe short-term blow.

It’s a gut punch to Raiders supporters in the East Bay, who have but two seasons until the Silver and Black head to Las Vegas for good.

Oakland fans lose a superstar who was easy to cheer for, an elite talent who never gets in trouble and represents the community well.

Trading Mack and avoiding his massive contract for future picks is obviously a big-picture play. Gruden and the Raiders might be better for it, assuming they draft better than the last time two first-round picks came in trade.

Tampa Bay included those selections for Gruden himself back in 2002. The Raiders turned those picks into defensive back Phillip Buchanan and defensive end Tyler Brayton. Franchise cornerstones, they were not.


The Raiders can also allocate money theoretically earmarked for Mack by general manager Reggie McKenzie on several players who can help the overall product. That’s as valuable as any draft pick, especially while the Raiders rebuild their depth chart following supbar drafts from 2015-17.

It’s a little to late to use that money this fall.

The extra 2019 first-round pick would have to make an immediate impact for the loyal, rabid fans who occupy Oakland Coliseum each home game to enjoy any fruit from this deal. There’s no guarantee in that.

Trading Mack doesn’t mean the Raiders will stink. They still have a dynamic offense, with Derek Carr running Gruden’s respected scheme, one that will have some new wrinkles unveiled as the season goes on.

The defense has Bruce Irvin rushing off one edge and rookies Maurice Hurst, P.J. Hall and Arden Key added to the mix. Maybe Gruden and defensive Paul Guenther will get the team going strong and the Raiders are competing for a division title this winter.

Those are all conditional phrases. Maybe, maybe, maybe. It’s absolutely certain the Raiders talent level decreased with the 2016 NFL defensive player of the year traded to Chicago.

Even if they didn’t want to pay Mack a market-setting deal, they could’ve controlled his rights for three years on a fifth-year option and consecutive franchise tags. That would’ve helped the Raiders in Oakland. Gruden and owner Mark Davis have said several times they want to win for fans in the East Bay. The Mack deal was a short-term loss for the possibility of a long-term gain that leaves Las Vegas Raiders fans in position to reap the rewards.