The Green Bay Packers continue to be considered among the favorites in the Khalil Mack sweepstakes if the Raiders trade their best player. The All-Pro edge rusher remains a holdout from Raiders camp with little or no progress being made in negotiations to sign Mack to a new deal that would keep him with the Silver and Black.
Mack would be an excellent fit for the Packers. He is a true difference maker on the field at a position that can impact the entire defense. The Pack lacks depth at edge rusher and their two best players at the position, Clay Matthews and Nick Perry, both have lengthy injury histories.
The Packers also have the assets necessary to pull off a trade. Green Bay is the only team in the NFL right now with two first-round picks in the 2019 draft thanks to some shrewd maneuvering by new GM Brian Gutekunst during the first round of this year’s draft. That means they can afford to deal one or both of those picks as part of a package to acquire the former University of Buffalo star.
Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie also has connections to the Packers organization since he worked in the team’s front office from 1994-2012. That may make him more comfortable dealing with the Pack if he trades Mack.
Green Bay also has the cap space to sign Mack although it won’t necessarily be easy. The Packers presently have more than $11 million in available cap space according to overthecap.com. That number should go up after final cuts are made just before the season opener. Signing franchise quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a new deal should also add some cap space depending on how the deal is structured.
The Packers will have more cap space in 2019 if Matthews and Randall Cobb come off the payroll as presently scheduled, and some players can be signed to extensions to free up some more cap room if necessary.
There is no doubting Mack’s ability. He is an elite talent, a player who opposing offensive coordinators must account for on every play if they hope to move the ball against his team. He also has a good reputation when it comes to attitude and work ethic.
Mack has impressed his coaches and teammates alike. Former Raiders head coach, Jack Del Rio appreciated the talents of his best defensive player. “He’s a good football player. He brings great energy every day. He’s a wonderful teammate and he’s a talented guy who works his tail off,” Del Rio said in a postgame press conference in 2016.
Hall of Famer Howie Long also believes Mack has the potential to be a very special player. “He’s unique in the sense that there may be a guy or two in the league that can get to the quarterback better than him. And there may be a guy who’s better at the point of attack. But nobody’s better at both. He’s great in a phone booth and he’s great in space.
“He has an opportunity to be a generational player. How many people can say that?”
Mack’s resume speaks for itself. The 27-year-old Fort Pierce, Florida, native was named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2016. He has earned three consecutive Pro Bowl berths from 2015-17 and was named first team All-Pro twice. In fact, Mack became the first player in NFL history to be named All-Pro at two different positions in the same season in 2015. He has accumulated more than 10 sacks in each of the last three seasons and has played in all 64 games his team has played since entered the NFL in 2014. And he’s done all of this despite not having a lot of talent around him in Oakland recently.
The question remains how high is the price to acquire Mack? There are likely to be several teams bidding and that will drive up the cost of the deal. Gutekunst will not want to be taken to the cleaners by the Raiders and he will want to be able to negotiate a new contract for Mack before paying such a high price in draft choices and/or players to get him.
Mack can really impact a Green Bay team that already looks like a playoff contender on paper. In the salary cap era, talent is spread more evenly throughout the league. While Lombardi’s dynasty had a dozen Hall of Fame players on the field, those days are long gone. The way to win championships now is to have a few elite talents on both sides of the ball and then surround them with as many very good players as possible.
Look at the Packers last two Super Bowl winning teams. In 1996, Brett Favre, Reggie White and LeRoy Butler were truly elite level players. In 2010, the Pack had Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson. Then those players were surrounded by quality teammates throughout the roster that allowed the team to be just a bit better than their opponents.
Khalil Mack is a difference maker. He is a player who can make the other guys on the field better just because opposing teams must account for him. He is the type of talent who can take the Packers to the next level in the crowded, top-heavy NFC playoff race. Obviously, Gutekunst doesn’t want to pay too much for Mack. But he certainly owes it to the Packers organization to explore every possibility of bringing him to Green Bay and giving the Pack a chance to win another championship while Rodgers is still in his prime.