Recently it has been reported that Raiders star pass rusher Khalil Mack will not be reporting to the teams mandatory mini-camp. He is holding out for a long term contract, now that the team has picked up his fifth year option. This got me to thinking. What if the Steelers and Raiders just swapped their star holdouts? Both players would fill major needs on the other team, but would also create some big holes at the same time. Let’s way the pros and cons for each team.
HOW IT WOULD AFFECT THE RAIDERS:
Obviously losing a player like Khalil Mack would hurt an already mediocre Raiders defense. This is a player who has averaged double digit sacks in his four years in the NFL. Here’s the rub, would the loss on defense be mitigated by adding Le’Veon Bell to an already loaded offense. In fact, the only real weakness in this offense is at running back, with the likes of Marshawn Lynch and Doug Martin at the position. Adding Le’Veon Bell to a group with Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, and Jordy Nelson would have to be extremely enticing to a coach like John Gruden. Gruden is an offensive coach who is definitely in “win now” mode. Oh and let’s not forget these teams have already made a deal this offseason when Oakland acquire Martavis Bryant from the Steelers. The Raiders did take a flyer on defensive end Arden Key during this years draft. They could plug the talented, but troubled rookie in Mack’s place. All in all I think there is little doubt Gruden jumps at this deal if offered.
Money, of course, is the key to any deal. The Raiders would actually be in line to save money even if they were to give in to Bell’s reported contract demands. At around fourteen million, Bell’s desired number would fall short of the going asking price for edge rushers these days. Vonn Miller is the measuring stick for any edge rusher, and he comes in at nineteen million per year. Chandler Jones recently signed at close to seventeen per, so we can assume Mack would fall somewhere between these two.
HOW IT AFFECTS THE STEELERS:
I know what you’re thinking, before even finishing the headline you knew which team says no. The Pittsburgh Steelers just don’t make big bold moves like this. If Gruden picks up the phone and makes this offer to Colbert, he has to consider it though right? After years and years of trying to find an edge rusher, how could they Colbert possibly not jump at this? Everyone knows this is Bell’s last year in Pittsburgh anyway. The team is never going to pay him what he wants, nor are they going to use the franchise tag again to the tune of twenty million dollars. The next question is would losing Bell devastate the offense, and the answer is simply no. There isn’t another player who could by themselves replace what Bell does, that goes without saying. However, it’s the very nature of the position that makes it somewhat replaceable. This is not a quarterback we are talking about here. Teams win Super Bowls with average running backs all the time these days. The Steelers already invested a high draft pick in his potential replacement in James Conner. There are still some pretty intriguing free agent running backs on the market like Demarco Murray and Jamaal Charles aswell. Wouldn’t the combination of Khalil Mack and Demarco Murray make this team significantly better than it is right now? The fact of the matter is Mack would make everyone on this defense better. The secondary would be better with the pressure he brings on opposing quarterbacks. Other pass rusher would benefit as well with less attention coming there way. The addition of Mack would give this team a Super Bowl caliber defense for the first time in close to ten years, pure and simple.
Once again we come back to money. Bell and Mack are slated to make very similar salaries in 2018, so that’s a wash. The Steelers however, stand to have to pay much more for a premiere pass rusher then they ever planned for Bell. Contrary to what people might think, the Steelers are not against paying top dollar for players. They did it for both Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown. What they don’t do is overpay players, which is what they’d be doing by giving in to Bell’s demands.
It’s a deal that makes sense for both teams on many levels. It’s also a deal we wouldn’t be shocked to see John Gruden and the Raiders make at all. The Steelers, on the other hand, shy away from blockbuster type moves. Preferring to build through the draft, and stay the course. It’s a philosophy that the team has had great success with, but also has fallen a little short the last several seasons. This may be the deal that finally gets them over the hump. We’re likely never to know, but it’s worth dreaming about right?