Jon Gruden didn’t mince words.
As excited as he was to coach Khalil Mack in his second stint with Oakland, Gruden believes the right move ultimately was to trade Mack to give the Raiders the draft picks and salary cap room needed to rebuild a depleted roster.
“It wasn’t my goal to trade Khalil when we got here,” Gruden said Sunday. “One of the reasons I’m here is because of him. Unfortunately, we had a standoff with a contract, and we could not come to terms. The Bears made us an offer of two first-round draft choices and here we are today.”
The Raiders made the blockbuster trade on Saturday, dealing one of the game’s most dominant defensive players to Chicago for first-round draft picks in 2019 and 2020, a sixth-rounder next year and a third-rounder in 2020. Oakland also included its second-round selection in 2020 and a conditional fifth-rounder that year in the trade.
Mack then immediately signed a six-year, $141 million extension with the Bears that guarantees $90 million. That’s the richest deal ever for a defensive player and nowhere near where the Raiders were willing to go after already committing $25 million a year to quarterback Derek Carr.
“It’s tough when you have two players that are the highest paid at their positions, so the economic part of it certainly weighs in,” Gruden said. “We’ve got free agents on our team that are going to be (up) next year; we’ve got to find a way to bring them back. So you’ve got to field a 53-man roster and there are some implications of having two players making that much money. That’s no mystery to anybody.”
The Bears were willing to commit that money in part because they have quarterback Mitchell Trubisky on a rookie deal. The Los Angeles Rams gave $87 million guaranteed to Aaron Donald this past week in what was the richest defensive contract for one day until Mack surpassed it, but they also have quarterback Jared Goff on a rookie contract.
The Raiders don’t have that luxury and have several holes to fill on a team that went 6-10 last year and has gotten little production from recent draft classes. Oakland has already cut ties with its second-round picks from 2015, ’16 and ’17 in Mario Edwards Jr., Jihad Ward and Obi Melifonwu and has only 11 of the 50 draft choices that general manager Reggie McKenzie made from 2012-17 on the 53-man roster.
That has contributed to the Raiders having the oldest roster in the league and the desire for more draft picks.
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Source: USA Today