More than half the NFL called the Raiders to inquire about acquiring Khalil Mack. Yet Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie wasn’t interested in trading the All-Pro edge rusher.
He was focused on extending Mack’s contract despite the large value gap between player and team. Offers increased on Friday to the point that the Raiders did something unexpected.
They agreed on a deal Saturday to send Mack to Chicago for a compensation package that included two first-round picks.
“My whole thought process was to get Khalil (signed),” McKenzie said Saturday. "It was at the end, in the final hour, that it just hit. It hit hard and heavy. It was not a plan to trade him at all.”
The Raiders set a high price. The Bears matched it, and were among the teams the Raiders thought might have high draft picks in the next few years.
McKenzie is clearly surprised by what has transpired. He had long budgeted to retain Mack and quarterback Derek Carr on long-term, expensive contracts.
He tried to get a deal done on February around the time of the NFL Scouting Combine. The Raiders sent agent Joel Segal an offer for Mack’s contract. Segal countered. Eyebrows were raised.
The sides didn’t talk much after that, and Mack eventually withheld services during the offseason program, training camp and the preseason. While some thought Mack might blink, report and play on a $13.846 million fifth-year option, it was possible he could sacrifice game checks by continuing his holdout into the regular season.
“There were some things that weren’t meshing between the two proposals,” McKenzie said. “That made it hard to go into details. We were trying to figure out ways to get it done, but it wasn’t going to look like what Khalil wanted. The bottom line is he couldn’t come in. By him not coming in, it showed him we probably have to see what in the world is going to happen if this continues.”
The Raiders could’ve kept his rights for three seasons on the fifth-year option and two franchise tags. They decided on a trade as the new course of action as the trade market intensified Friday evening.
The Raiders weren’t going to go there. McKenzie wouldn’t discuss specifics of contract proposals, but that’s significantly more than quarterback Derek Carr got last summer.
It’s rare to have a quarterback and defensive player on the same team with top-of-the-market deals, but McKenzie said having Carr working under such a big deal didn’t impact Mack’s offer.
“We knew we had two great players in that  draft a long time ago,” McKenzie said. “We knew this thing was coming. We were trying to plan for this. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out. That scenario did not weigh heavily in our decisions.”
Trading Mack in a league where top players rarely leave their team is rare. Doing so could also send a bad message to young players. If the Raiders didn’t reward a fair market deal for Mack, an elite talent who was never in trouble, players could wonder if they’ll get rewarded when the time comes.
“We will pay top dollar,” McKenzie said. “We couldn’t get around giving Khalil what he wanted. We will pay top dollar to top players. We just could not get it worked out with Khalil. When it seemed like it was going that way, we decided to make a move with the trade. We will be able attract players. …We’ll find a way to continue to play good football. We’re not worried about the outside perception of free agency. We will get free agents in here when its time to do that and we will keep our own. Sometimes you can’t keep them all. That’s just the way it goes.”
Trading Mack, an immensely popular locker-room presence, will furrow some brows on the roster. McKenzie is aware of that.
“It’s going to sting with them,” McKenzie said. “Players protect themselves and their teammates. That’s how it should be. They’re going to miss Khalil. I’m going to miss Khalil. We all will miss Khalil. Let’s make that point known now. We all will miss him, but we will all move on.”