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NFL Draft

Did Jon Gruden Really Try To Get Khalil Mack Back?

  • The Draft Network
  • August 23, 2021
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A crazy rumor made its way around NFL circles on Monday with reports out of Las Vegas indicating that the Raiders called the Chicago Bears in March of this year to ask about EDGE Khalil Mack’s availability in a trade while the Bears were dealing with some salary cap issues. The Athletic’s Vic Tafur had it first.

As you may recall, the Raiders traded Mack to the Bears a little over a week before the 2018 season was set to kick off in a deal that saw Chicago send multiple draft picks (including two first-rounders) the other way. It was one of the first big moves made by head coach Jon Gruden following his highly-publicized return to the franchise. General manager Mike Mayock was hired two months after the Mack trade, thus playing no part in the blockbuster deal.

Since then, the Raiders have had an incredibly difficult time replacing Mack. No Raider recorded more than a lowly four sacks in 2018, the season that immediately followed the trade. The Raiders made one of their first big attempts at filling the void left behind by the six-time Pro Bowler by drafting former Clemson pass rusher Clelin Ferrell with the fourth overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, but Ferrell has failed to live up to the billing by posting just 6.5 sacks in his first two professional campaigns. They’re now hoping that the recently-signed Yannick Ngakoue can help solve their pass-rushing woes. 

Since sending Mack to Chicago three years ago, Maxx Crosby leads the team in sacks with 17 takedowns, something he accomplished in just two years (2019 and 2020). For comparative purposes, Mack has recorded 30 sacks in three years in Chicago. Ouch.

We can go on and on about the errors made by Gruden and Mayock. Since joining forces, the pair have reached for several players in multiple draft years (Ferrell, Damon Arnette, and Johnathan Abram come to mind). They’ve also made some terrible decisions in free agency (Cory Littleton, anyone?). But none of these errors had quite the negative impact on the team like the Mack one did. Playing in a division with Patrick Mahomes and now Justin Herbert means your defense will be constantly tested by your AFC West rivals, and the Raiders have yet to field a quality defense since Gruden and Mayock took over as the head honchos. A talent like Mack, which they lack on that side of the ball, could make the world of a difference.

This story is absolutely wild. There aren’t many examples in NFL history (Fran Tarkenton comes to mind) of a team trying to reacquire a superstar like Mack just a few years after they willingly sent him packing. They may never admit it publicly, but if these reports are true, then Gruden and company may finally be coming to realize the egregious error they made when they agreed to trade away one of the league’s best defensive players because they worried about something that offers so many creative solutions like salary cap flexibility does. 

Who would have thought Gruden would come to regret such a move? Oh yeah, everybody but him.

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