Jon Gruden, Reggie McKenzie and the Oakland Raiders stunned everyone Saturday when they traded star defensive end Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears for a package of draft picks, including two first-round selections.
Mack is one of the best defensive players in the NFL, so it was a shock for a Raiders team that expects to contend for a Super Bowl to deal arguably its best player. He and the Raiders were in the middle of a contract standoff that appeared to have no end in sight unless Oakland was willing to give the pass-rusher the hefty contract he desired.
Gruden addressed the trade Sunday, and he made things a whole lot more confusing while explaining why the deal happened.
“They’re trying to divide us,” Gruden said, via ESPN while addressing reports that he and McKenzie had differing opinions on whether or not they should keep Mack. “People are trying to divide us: ‘I wanted him gone, he wanted him here.’ We made a decision as an organization. (Owner) Mark Davis, (executive) Tom Delaney, we all got the information and we made a decision, together. And I’ll just say what (Reggie) said — I read what he said yesterday — it’s a decision that we all came to.
“I know there’s maybe some feeling that maybe I was involved in a day-to-day negotiation. I had nothing to do with it. We were at a standoff and something had to happen, and here we are.”
Mack was set to make $13.8 million this season and could have been franchise tagged next offseason. Instead, Mack was shipped to Chicago and reportedly agreed to a six-year, $141 million contract extension with the NFC North team.
While Gruden claims he had nothing to do with the negotiations between Mack and the team, he later shed light on the failure to keep the star and it sounds like he was right in the middle of it.
“The negotiation was what it was,” Gruden said, via The Athletic. “It was tough. It was a long process. We talked about it daily. We made an offer. I don’t believe we were anywhere close to where the Bears were. And the Bears made us an offer that we thought was really unique. …
“It’s very, very tough to say goodbye to a great player, but here we are today.”
So …. which was it?
Gruden, who came out of the broadcasting booth to return the Raiders to Super Bowl glory, discussed what this does to the team’s chances of competing, and it doesn’t sound like he wanted to trade Mack.
“It’s tough,” Gruden said. “It wasn’t my goal to trade Khalil when we got here. One of the reasons I’m here is because of him. Unfortunately, we had a standoff with the contract and we could not come to terms. The Bears made us an offer of two first-round draft picks and here we are today. “
So why trade Mack now?
“Well, you don’t know if you can get those picks,” Gruden said. “We’re trying to negotiate a contract to keep the player here. We would like to have the player stay here. He was under contract. We did not expect this to last as long as it did.
“We’re going to be second-guessed until the cows come home on this, I understand that. Bottom line is, we did do our due diligence, there was a standoff and he got a great contract from the Bears.”
If Gruden came to Oakland in part because of Mack, you’d have to think the $100-million coach could do something to keep him around. But now the Raiders and Gruden will have to find a way to compete in the tough AFC West without one of the league’s best defenders.
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