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.
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