Khalil Mack

Raiders Tried To Reacquire Khalil Mack From Bears

Lacking an impact pass rusher since trading Khalil Mack to the Bears in 2018, the Raiders signed Yannick Ngakoue to bolster their defensive end corps in March. However, before that agreement came to pass, the team hatched a rather unusual plan.

Just before signing Ngakoue, the Raiders contacted the Bears about reacquiring Mack, Vic Tafur of The Athletic reports (subscription required). Both the Bears and Raiders made cap-related moves this spring, each shedding some starters for financial reasons. The Raiders wondered if the Bears, who would soon shop Kyle Fuller before making him a cap casualty, would send Mack back to them amid their cap crunch.

In what still had to be a fascinating phone call on the Bears’ end, they told the Raiders they were not interested in trading Mack, Tafur adds. Mack, now 30, is going into his fourth season with Chicago. The Bears’ top pass-rushing cogs — Mack, Robert Quinn, Akiem Hicks — are all north of 30 now. But the team was not interested in what would have been one of the more interesting trades in modern NFL history, given the nature of Mack’s Oakland exit three summers ago.

The Raiders’ decisions to extend Derek Carr and Gabe Jackson in the summer of 2017 while making Mack wait — a common practice made possible by the fifth-year option being included in first-rounders’ deals — irked Mack, per Tafur. And the Raiders devoting funds to lower-profile free agents during Jon Gruden‘s first months back in power bothered the pass rusher to the point he broke off contact with the team. The Raiders signed a host of midlevel free agents that March — from Jordy Nelson to Rashaan Melvin to Tahir Whitehead — and Mark Davis said in 2018 Mack refused to talk to Gruden and then-GM Reggie McKenzie going forward.

Davis cited Carr’s contract when addressing whether the Raiders could afford Mack, and Gruden noted that year the Raiders’ extension offer to Mack was not close to the six-year, $141MM contract he signed with the Bears post-trade. The Raiders received two first-round picks, a 2020 third and a 2019 sixth for Mack. They drafted Josh Jacobs and Damon Arnette with the first-rounders, while the Bears took Cole Kmet with the 2020 second-rounder they collected in the September 2018 blockbuster.

Mack, who is 3-for-3 in Pro Bowls with the Bears, is signed through the 2024 season. Pro Football Focus graded Mack as the No. 1 edge defender in 2020, despite his lower sack (nine) and QB-hit (13) totals. The Bears did end up using Mack’s contract to create cap space, restructuring it around the same time the Raiders phoned. Moving Mack before the 2023 offseason would bring forth significant dead-money charges for the Bears. On the Raiders’ end, they gave Ngakoue a two-year, $26MM deal. He will pair with Maxx Crosby and former No. 4 overall pick Clelin Ferrell, who has not lived up to that draft slot to this point.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bears Restructure Khalil Mack, Eddie Jackson, Cody Whitehair Contracts

Residing over the cap entering the weekend, the Bears made a few moves to create more than $20MM in cap space and inch under the $182.5MM salary ceiling.

Chicago will restructure the contracts of Khalil Mack, Eddie Jackson and Cody Whitehair, according to Adam Schefter, who adds these moves will create more than $23MM in cap space (Twitter link). The Bears previously had the NFL’s second-worst cap situation, residing nearly $20MM over the cap.

The Bears previously restructured Mack’s deal in 2019. He was due to count more than $26MM against Chicago’s 2021 cap. This marks the first restructure of Jackson’s five-year, $58.4MM deal. Ditto for Whitehair’s five-year, $51.3MM pact. The two combined to count just more than $20MM against Chicago’s cap this year.

The team still has work to do in the cap-space department, and the reshufflings will certainly be connected to a potential quarterback salary. In dire need at quarterback, the Bears are planning to pursue a Russell Wilson trade. Were the Bears to pull off a miraculous deal, they would need to account for by far the biggest contract in franchise history. Wilson’s $35MM-per-year accord runs through 2023.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bears Notes: Desai, Robinson, Massie, Skrine

Earlier this week, Sean Desai met with the media for the first time since being promoted to the role of defensive coordinator. While the 37-year-old will take over a defense that has ranked as a top-10 DVOA unit in each of the past three seasons, they’ve also seen some regression since peaking in 2018. However, Desai doesn’t believe the defensive needs a significant overhaul.

“I’m not a big car guy, so my analogies may not be great, but this is like a tune up,” Desai said (via the team’s website). “We’re going to refine some things and we’re going to make sure our players are playing to their strengths on a consistent basis and they’re going to buy into the system and the whys and the hows of why we’re doing certain things. But we’ve got a good defense. We’ve got really good players here.”

“There was some regression, and we’re going to overcome that,” Desai added. “But we’re going to do it in a positive way and we’re going to do it where the players are going to be able to shine through that defense. So I think we’ll build some depth and we’ll continue with our tough, physical mindset of play and do that over a 16- to 20-week season.”

Some more notes out of Chicago…

  • CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora writes that the Bears are “prepared” to tag wideout Allen Robinson with the hope of eventually signing him to a long-term deal. Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune writes that it will be difficult to fit a franchised Robinson into a reduced 2021 cap, but the writer also admits that replacing Robinson would be a more daunting task.
  • Speaking of the cap, Biggs provided some cost-cutting options for the Bears. The team could move on from right tackle Bobby Massie, although that would open a spot on the offensive line. Cornerback Buster Skrine could also lose his roster spot, especially since he has a $500K roster bonus due in March. Finally, Biggs also whether the front office will be receptive to paying tight end Jimmy Graham $7MM this season.
  • As for restructured contracts, Biggs points to pass rusher Khalil Mack and safety Eddie Jackson, and he notes that the team could also extend cornerback Kyle Fuller. Alternatively, the team could look to retain free agents like Cairo Santos and Cordarrelle Patterson on low-money pacts.
  • Kevin Fishbain of The Athletic passed along a few Bears players who have increased their 2021 salaries via proven performance escalators (Twitter links): defensive end Bilal Nichols (from $920K to $2.183MM) and guard James Daniels ($1.437MM to $2.183MM),. Their new salaries are contingent on the final 2021 cap number.

Extra Points: Mack, AB, Ramsey, Kessler

The Bears are set to face off against the Raiders in London this weekend, which means Khalil Mack will have his first chance to play against his former team. The linebacker told reporters today that he actually envisioned playing for the Raiders for his entire career.

“That’s the expectation when you get drafted to a team: You want to be there for the long haul and bring championships and all those good things,” Mack said (via’s Jeff Dickerson). “It’s the business side of it that doesn’t really let you do that.”

Mack spent the first four seasons of his career with Oakland, but the Raiders put him on the block when the two sides couldn’t agree to a long-term selection. The Bears swooped in and ended up signing four-time Pro Bowler to a deal that included $90MM in guaranteed money. Mack rewarded his new team by compiling 47 tackles and 12.5 sacks in 14 games.

Let’s check out some more notes from around the NFL…

  • As the NFL continues to investigate Antonio Brown for alleged sexual assault, the wide receiver still hasn’t met with the league, tweets’s Jeremy Fowler. Considering the Pro Bowl receiver is currently a free agent, Fowler notes that it’s “unclear how cooperative he plans or needs to be.” As Charean Williams of writes, it’s likely that no team would sign Brown until the NFL’s investigation is complete, meaning the wideout could be forced to cooperate if he wants to play again.
  • Peter King of Football Morning in America writes that the Chargers might get into the Jalen Ramsey sweepstakes. The writer believes adding a top defensive player would be a savvy move as the organization prepares for a new stadium in 2020. King adds that he “still think[s]” that the Chiefs and Ravens are also involved in talks with the Jaguars. We heard earlier this week that the Jaguars rejected a trade that would have netted them a pair of late first-rounders.
  • Yesterday, the Eagles acquired linebacker Duke Riley and a sixth-round choice from the Falcons in exchange for safety Johnathan Cyprien and a seventh-round pick. SiriusXM’s Adam Caplan tweets that the seventh rounder is actually the Buccaneers’ selection. The Eagles originally acquired the pick in the offseason trade that brought DeSean Jackson back to Philly.
  • Quarterback Cody Kessler signed a minimum contract with the Patriots, tweets Ben Volin of the Boston Globe. This means he’ll earn a prorated $720K salary (a bit less than $593K for the rest of the season) with no guaranteed money and a $448K “injury split.” This essentially means the Patriots can evaluate Kessler’s spot on the roster on a week-by-week basis.

Packers Wanted Khalil Mack

In September, the Bears landed Khalil Mack in a trade that sent shockwaves throughout the football world. In an alternate universe, Mack could have ended up with their divisional rivals. In an interview with 105.7 The Fan Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy says he tried his best to land the All-Pro superstar. 

Well the whole Khalil Mack thing. It’s not that we didn’t try,” Murphy said. “We were aggressive. We wanted to sign him. I think, ironically, the Raiders took the Bears offer because they thought they would be a better [2019 first round] draft pick.”

Ultimately, that was not the case – the Packers finished out with the No. 12 overall pick while the Raiders secured the Bears’ No. 24 overall choice in the deal. Still, hindsight is 20/20 and it’s possible that things could have played out differently if Mack was in Green Bay.

It’s an interesting what-if scenario, but Murphy isn’t necessarily losing sleep over it. After all, if the Packers landed Mack and gave him a monster extension in addition to Aaron Rodgers‘ huge contract, there wouldn’t have been much left for the other players on the roster.

I don’t know if it is good to have the highest paid offensive player in the league, and the highest paid defensive player in the league,” Murphy said. “Is that a good way to build a team?

After the Packers missed out on Mack, the edge rusher inked a six-year, $141MM extension with Chicago that includes $90MM guaranteed and $60MM at signing.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

North Notes: Green, Bears, Mack, Steelers

A.J. Green is entering the final season of a four-year, $60MM contract. He is also coming off another injury-shortened slate, with a toe malady cutting it short. Bengals owner Mike Brown said earlier this year he would be interested in Green staying in Cincinnati on another deal. Green expressed the same sentiment over the weekend.

Cincinnati is home for me,” Green said, via FOX 19 in Cincinnati (video link). “I’ve been here nine years. This is home as much as South Carolina. All I know is Cincinnati. I can’t see myself playing anywhere else or playing in a different city. Hopefully I can be here for a couple more years, so we’ll see on that part.”

Green is entering his age-31 season and has missed 13 games over the past three years, but the seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver has proven to be one of the best players in Bengals history. The Bengals extended two other cornerstones last year, in Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap, and Brown called the wideout a “proven commodity” earlier this year. No known talks have commenced between Green and Bengals. The receiver also said, via FOX 19, he has been cleared from the toe surgery he underwent in December. It is not certain if he will participate in Cincinnati’s minicamp next week.

Here is the latest from the North divisions:

  • During the 2018 Khalil Mack pursuit, Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy began calling their Raiders counterparts (Reggie McKenzie and Jon Gruden) about the All-Pro edge defender once training camp began last year. But the Bears’ prevailing thought as of late July 2018 was, in the words of player personnel director Josh Lucas, “What are we doing? They’re not going to trade this guy,” Lucas said (via J.J. Stankevitz of NBC Sports Chicago). But shortly before Chicago’s final preseason game — which occurred a day after the Aaron Donald extension, and as the Raiders’ patience with Mack was running out — Bears brass were told to submit their best offer. That proposal (a package fronted by two first-round picks and a third-rounder) won out. “I think we had an advantage because they wanted him to get out of the AFC, so being an NFC team, I think we had a pretty good chance,” Lucas said. “I don’t think the Raiders thought we were going to be any good last year, so they wanted our first-round pick. So I think that played a part of it.
  • After Adrian Amos and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix started the 2018 season as Bears and Packers safeties, the respective back-line defenders switched cities this year. Clearly on a roll at the Bears100 Celebration this week, Lucas added (via Stankevitz, on Twitter) the Bears consistently graded Clinton-Dix as superior to Amos. Pro Football Focus would disagree with the Bears’ assessment, particularly in 2017 (when the site gave Amos a 90.9 grade and Clinton-Dix a 71.5 mark). The Bears also landed Clinton-Dix for far cheaper (one year, $3MM) than the deal the Packers gave Amos (four years, $36MM), pointing to other teams sharing PFF’s view.
  • Sean Davis switched agents in advance of his contract year, moving from MBK sports management to Drew Rosenhaus, the safety confirmed (via Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). Davis said no extension talks have occurred between he and the Steelers and noted the safety market’s 2019 explosion as a reason he may bet on himself this season. “I just felt like I needed a change,” Davis said, via Fittipaldo, of switching from Eugene Lee to Rosenhaus. “Drew is a top agent, man. … The safety market went up this year. That puts a little more pressure on me to get the job done and to compete for those contracts.” After faring better as a free safety than he did at the strong safety spot in 2017, Davis will remain there this season.

Bears Restructure Khalil Mack’s Contract

The Bears are freeing up some cap space. Chicago is restructuring defensive end Khalil Mack‘s contract, a source told Field Yates of (Twitter link).

Yates writes that the move will create $11MM of cap space “by converting $13M of Khalil Mack’s base salary & roster bonus into a signing bonus.” It’s a win-win as Mack will get more money upfront, while the team will have some added flexibility. The $13MM will now be spread out over the course of Mack’s contract for cap purposes .

Yates also notes that the Bears are positioning themselves to make more moves in free agency. They signed cornerback Buster Skrine and made a couple of other minor moves like signing running back Mike Davis and re-signing tight end Ben Brauneckerbut it sounds like they’re still looking to make a big splash.

So far the story of Chicago’s offseason has been departures rather than acquisitions. Safety Adrian Amos left for the division rival Packers, while cornerback Bryce Callahan is expected to sign elsewhere. It’ll be very interesting to see what the Bears decide to do with this extra cash.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

49ers Notes: Foster, Mack, Goodwin

We know that soon-to-be-former 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster was arrested on a domestic violence charge last night following an incident at the team’s hotel in Tampa Bay, and that the team is going to put Foster on the waiver wire tomorrow. GM John Lynch has since given an interview on the situation, and he indicated that the decision to cut Foster was made because Foster failed to uphold the standards set for him after the issues he had earlier this year (Twitter link via Nick Wagoner of Lynch added that he and team ownership agreed on the move.

Now for more from San Francisco, starting with more Foster fallout:

  • Matt Barrows of The Athletic provides a series of tweets with more detail on the Foster incident and Lynch’s reaction to it.
  • Former NFL agent Joel Corry notes that the 49ers will carry roughly $2.35MM in dead money for Foster on the 2019 cap (Twitter link). Foster’s two-game suspension that he served at the beginning of this season wiped out his base salary guarantees, so the dead money figure stems entirely from signing bonus proration.
  • In two separate pieces, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk examines Foster’s chances of being picked up by another club. Florio notes that any team interested in Foster’s services would first want to know if the league plans to place Foster on the Commissioner Exempt list, which is a device for keeping players off the field when those players face certain types of criminal charges, including allegations of domestic violence. A player cannot be placed on the list unless he is on a team, but he would be eligible to be paid during his stay on the list. Any team is free to call the league office to determine what its intentions are with respect to Foster, but unless the league is able to definitively say that Foster is not a candidate for the list — which seems unlikely — it does not appear that Foster will be claimed on waivers. It also seems that no one will be interested in signing Foster even when he clears waivers until his status with the league is determined.
  • We knew that the 49ers were interested in trading for Khalil Mack before he was dealt to the Bears, but we also heard that San Francisco had simply been outbid by Chicago. However, Lynch indicated during a radio interview with 95.7 The Game on Friday that he continues to believe that the 49ers had a better offer on the table for Mack (audio link). To get Mack, the Bears gave up two first-round picks, a 2019 sixth-rounder, and a 2020 third-rounder (though some draft capital came back to Chicago as well), so Lynch is apparently suggesting that he was prepared to give more than that to land the elite defender.
  • Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin traveled with the team to Tampa Bay, but he is not present for San Francisco’s matchup with the Bucs, as Adam Schefter of tweets. Goodwin was reportedly excused from the team to address a personal matter, and he was also excused from practice earlier this week due to a personal matter, though it is presently unclear whether it is the same issue.
  • Ahkello Witherspoon, who was selected two rounds after Foster in the 2017 draft, is at something of a crossroads with the 49ers, as Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. Witherspoon has been benched twice this year and has regressed in coverage and tackling after a strong rookie campaign, and while it seems unlikely the 49ers would cut him at the end of the season, his play over the course of the team’s final six games will have a big impact on how aggressively the 49ers pursue cornerback upgrades in the offseason.

Raiders Owner On Mack Trade, Gruden

Raiders owner Mark Davis is taking responsibility for the team’s 1-8 start, even though many are pointing fingers at head coach Jon Gruden

I always look in the mirror, and the buck stops with me,” Davis told’s Paul Gutierrez. “Where this team is right now is my fault. We haven’t been able to build a 22-man roster. We haven’t been able to give this team a chance to win because the reconstruction failed. We failed from 2014 on to have a roster right now.”

Over the course of a 45-minute interview, Davis discussed Gruden, GM Reggie McKenzie, the team’s widely panned trade of defensive star Khalil Mack, and much more. Here’s a look at the highlights:

On Gruden’s role in the Mack trade:

Jon wanted him. Everybody thinks that Jon’s the one who wanted to get rid of him. Jon wanted him badly. Why wouldn’t you want this guy? Reggie wanted him badly. And I wanted him badly, too. But, if in fact we were going to give the type of money that we were going to give to him, and we had Derek on that type of a (contract), how were we going to go ahead and build this football team, with all the holes that we had?

On what prompted the team to send Mack to the Bears: 

My thought was, “Listen, he signed a five-year contract, if he’s the type of guy that I think he is, he’s going to honor that contract.” And he’s going to come in and play for the $13MM for this year and then we’ll work for him during the year and get it. Word came back through certain players that know him and talk to him and know me as well, that he wasn’t going to come in. He was going to do the Le’Veon Bell (holdout). At that point, I said, F’ it. The guy hasn’t talked to anybody. We’ve got to do something.

On Mack’s agent, Joel Segal:

It might not have been the right decision, but the other point to this whole thing is that Segal is also the agent for Amari Cooper. And we knew the same situation was coming up the next year. It wasn’t just one layer of chess; it was two layers of chess. But to blame Jon, for Khalil Mack not being here, is absolutely not the truth. It was a decision that was made and it wasn’t made easily … I don’t have any bad feelings toward (Mack). I wish he would have talked to Jon and Reggie and wanted to at least honor the fifth year of his contract.

On the future of quarterback Derek Carr:

Derek is taking a lot of s— right now. He is the franchise quarterback right now. He doesn’t have Amari Cooper. He lost (Martavis) Bryant to a knee injury today. Guys have been getting hurt. Who’s he throwing to? Jordy Nelson and Seth Roberts, which are good guys. But they’re not putting the fear of God in anybody. The tight end (Jared Cook) is playing his ass off. You look at the quarterback and he’s playing behind a battered offensive line … so I don’t know what you can put on Derek and I don’t think it’s fair to put all the blame on him.

On McKenzie’s future:

Reggie and I need to sit down and talk and figure out how we are going to go about the future. We’ve got to look in the mirror and figure out, where the hell did we go wrong in trying to build this thing? We failed. I have failed. But at the same time, we wouldn’t have been in the great position we were in without Reggie McKenzie being here.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Injury Notes: Gronk, Mack, Pack, Eagles

A third Rob Gronkowski injury absence appears to be in the cards. The Patriots will not deploy their All-Pro tight end to play Sunday against the Titans, Ian Rapoport of tweets. While Gronkowski is traveling with the team to Nashville, per’s Mike Reiss (on Twitter), he’s expected to be held out. Gronk missed games against the Bears and Packers but played in Buffalo on the Monday night in between those tilts. He’s been dealing with back and ankle trouble. While the Patriots have been able to win without their top pass-catcher, these repeated absences are obviously a concern for the future Hall of Famer’s availability for New England’s stretch run and potentially his post-2018 NFL future. It’s likely the Pats are attempting to rest Gronk now to hopefully see him healthy for key late-season games and the playoffs, but that can’t be considered a lock given his extensive injury history. Gronkowski hitting his incentive targets may now be unrealistic as well.

Here’s the latest from the Week 10 injury front.

  • Better news for the Bears. They’re in line to have both Khalil Mack and Allen Robinson back on Sunday when they face the Lions, per the Associated Press. Mack is no longer on the injury report after missing the past two Chicago games because of an ankle malady. His defensive player of the year chances took a hit because of this hiatus and Aaron Donald continuing another all-world season but Mack figures to still be in the running and can help a team attempting reach the playoffs for the first time in eight years.
  • The Lions‘ Robinson coverage options will be limited. Darius Slay is out for Week 10, joining guard T.J. Lang in that regard. Slay’s played in each of Detroit’s previous eight games and hasn’t missed time since 2016 but is battling a knee injury. A neck ailment will sideline Lang, who also missed time because of a concussion this season.
  • A tough injury night against the Patriots will have after-effects for the Packers. Kevin King will not play Sunday against the Dolphins because of a hamstring injury. Bashaud Breeland, whom’s Rob Demovsky notes appeared to impress the Packers in his Green Bay debut, figures to see more time.
  • Both Sidney Jones and Jalen Mills are going to miss Sunday night’s Eagles-Cowboys game, but Corey Graham will return after missing four games, per Sirius XM Radio’s Adam Caplan (on Twitter). After claiming Cre’Von LeBlanc off waivers earlier this week, surely due to injuries affecting the aforementioned duo, the Eagles have seven corners on their roster.
  • Taco Charlton and Connor Williams aren’t playing for the Cowboys on Sunday. Xavier Su’a-Filo appears to be the choice to replace Williams at left guard for Dallas, per executive VP Stephen Jones (Twitter link). A full-time Texans starter the past two seasons, Su’a-Filo has not played this season. Williams is down with a knee injury.