If you asked 100 members of the Raider Nation to name their favorite player, I’d be at least 50 of them would say Khalil Mack.And it’s easy to see why. He’s arguably the best defensive player in football, if not the best player period, and he’s been wreaking havoc for the Raiders with or without help from the other ten men on defense. However, he’s caused some waves by opting to stay home during voluntary workouts, and that same Raider Nation is not pleased.
Don’t Panic About Khalil Mack
It’s easy to see why the Raider Nation might be a little uncomfortable with Mack’s absence. Outside of veterans trying to skip what they deem unnecessary off-season work, absence from camp is almost always traced to an unhappy players. Unhappy players don’t play hard, unhappy players skip games, and unhappy players ask to be traded. The Raider Nation does not want Khalil Mack to be traded.
Why would Khalil Mack be unhappy? Well, there’s an obvious answer. 2018 will be Khalil Mack’s final year under his rookie contract, and as we creep towards the summer, he and general manager, Reggie McKenzie, have not agreed on a long-term contract yet. As arguably the NFL’s best defensive player, Mack is going to expect to be paid, and be paid well.
It’s fair to assume that Mack wants, and will likely receive, something similar, if not slightly more, than what Denver’s Von Miller got. Back in 2016, Miller signed a six-year, $114.5 million contract that gives him around $19 million per season. Mack and Miller are very similar players that consistently have very similar production, so it makes sense that the pay will be similar.
So what’s the hold up? The Raiders know they can’t afford to let Mack go, and Mack certainly deserves to get paid, why isn’t it getting done? Well, that can be easily answered with two words. Jon Gruden.
Jon Gruden didn’t wait long to start shaping the roster in his image, cutting several high-profile players, like punter Marquette King and wide receiver Michael Crabtree, before he even had a chance to meet with them. He’s brought in a ton of players, like Jordy Nelson, Tahir Whitehead, and Rashaan Melvin, to re-shape the look of the team. Without mentioning the potential re-signing of linebacker NaVorro Bowman, money is a little tight right now.
Per the NFLPA, the Raiders only have $1,804,851 in cap space as of April tenth, which would hardly be enough to sign anybody. More roster moves will have to be made just so the team can sign their rookies, let alone extending the contract of a former Defensive Player of the Year.
It is April. Not May, June, July, or August, it’s April. We’re barely through free agency, and we still have weeks until the draft. It’s still spring, and football starts at the end of the summer. Don’t worry about whether or not Khalil Mack shows up to workouts that are, after all, completely voluntary. Of course, you’d love to see him in there, in fact, you probably expect him there.
But it’s not a problem that he’s not there. In fact, if the NFL media had anything else to talk about, this probably wouldn’t even be a story. The reality is that most news outlets are grasping at straws, hoping to unearth something interesting to discuss until the draft, and Mack choosing to stay home happened to be the longest straw.
In all honesty, Khalil Mack doesn’t to be there. When football season rolls around, Mack is gonna do what Mack always does, terrorize quarterbacks. Let Derek Carr and Jordy Nelson establish some chemistry, that’s important. Let Tahir Whitehead and Rashaan Melvin figure out the defense, that’s important. Let Gareon Conley get as many reps as possible, that’s important. Khalil Mack’s presence in April? Not important.
So just relax, Raider Nation. When attendance matters, Khalil Mack will be there, and in all reality? He’ll probably be there with a new contract. Once the Raiders get the roster together and ready for week one, they can turn their focus on Mack’s deal. Reggie McKenzie is a cap wizard who will find a way to pay Khalil Mack what he deserves without burying the team.
Don’t panic, Raider Nation. Khalil Mack isn’t going anywhere any time soon.