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The Khalil Mack Trade in ‘Hindsight’

Two seasons have passed since the trade that sent Khalil Mack from the Oakland Raiders to the Chicago Bears. Can we assess the winner of that deal yet?
Khalil Mack

On September 1, 2018, news broke regarding a blockbuster trade between the at-the-time Oakland Raiders and the Chicago Bears. The Raiders decided to give away their elite pass-rusher, Khalil Mack, in exchange for extensive draft capital. The deal was made in response to a growing tension regarding the contract situations of Mack as well as Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, whom the team eventually signed to a five-year extension prior to the 2017 season. The Bears immediately signed Mack to a six-year, $141 million contract after they acquired the three-time Pro-Bowler and two-time All-Pro.

The trade details, as reported by Adam Schefter, were as follows:

Bears receive: Khalil Mack, a 2020 second-round pick, and a conditional 2020 fifth-round pick

Raiders receive: 2019 first-round pick, 2020 first-round pick, 2020 third-round pick, and a 2019 sixth-round pick

The 2020 NFL Draft Puts an End to the Khalil Mack Trade

Several facets from this trade are now known, so the trade’s core has come to fruition:

Bears receive: Linebacker Khalil Mack, Tight End Cole Kmet

Raiders receive: Running Back Josh Jacobs, Cornerback Damon Arnette, Wide Receiver Bryan Edwards

What We Know of Mack and Jacobs

Obviously, we only know the NFL experiences of two players since the trade–Mack and Jacobs. Jacobs had an outstanding rookie year, rushing for 1,150 yards and seven touchdowns. He ended the season as the runner-up to Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray for the 2019 Rookie of the Year.

In his two seasons with the Bears, Mack was selected to two more Pro Bowls and another First-Team All-Pro, accumulating 21 sacks. Mack’s presence led a resurging Bears defense during their 2018 season and established a ‘new’ Monsters of the Midway. The defense proved to be the best in the league, leading in several categories such as points against, turnovers, rushing yards, and rushing TDs. Chicago qualified for the playoffs for the first time since the 2010 season, but they ultimately fell to the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild Card. 

New Receiving Threats

The prospects drafted from the exchanged picks will serve as mysteries for years to come. Chicago used their first selection in the 2020 Draft on Cole Kmet, a tight end out of Notre Dame. This contribution will add to the crowded tight end group in the Windy City, especially following the signing of former Saints (and Packers) tight end Jimmy Graham.

By cutting Trey Burton, Kmet should have a larger role for his rookie season if Chicago decides to utilize multiple tight end groups. Offenses such as the Baltimore Ravens, featuring Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle, have begun to invest in these packages.

Las Vegas has more prospects to take into account. Jacobs still has the potential to develop unless the offense becomes more dependent on its expanding wide receiver core. Henry Ruggs, Nelson Agholor, Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow, make up this group, but a new addition drafted via the 2020 third-round selection from Chicago will bring depth: Bryan Edwards.

The South Carolina receiver’s snaps and playtime might not be extravagant this coming season due to the existing talent. Jon Gruden’s emphasis on the offense during the draft could make this Raiders group formidable for the future. 

Arnette in Vegas

After taking Henry Ruggs III in the 2020 draft, the Raiders selected Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette with the former Bears first-round pick.

Some projected him to be chosen in the second round, and some viewed him as the third-best corner at Ohio State behind Jeff Okudah and Shawn Wade. However, the Raiders decided to take Arnette before prospects such as TCU’s Jeff Gladney and Iowa’s Noah Igbinoghene. He’ll likely fill a void left behind by another former Buckeye corner, Gareon Conley, who was traded to the Houston Texans for a third-round pick that amounted to Amik Robertson. It’s evident that there is a commitment to depth at the cornerback position in Las Vegas. 

What Can We Infer?

It is doubtful that anyone will be able to confidently decide the winner and loser of the Khalil Mack trade. Until Mack’s contract in Chicago runs its course and the prospects gathered through the draft gain more experience and develop within the league, opinions will be difficult to generate.

The Bears will continue to play and possess a ‘win now’ type of mindset with their elite defense. The Raiders, on the other hand, will prioritize Derek Carr and his supporting cast while fighting for a probable wild card spot in the AFC West. Even though the probability of the Raiders winning the division appears slim, they can still compete against the rebuilding Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Chargers for relevance in the AFC as a whole. 

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