Raider Nation isn’t too concerned about the Khalil Mack holdout – yet. Our Sr. NFL Writer Hayden Nadolny takes a look at the current state of the Mack situation.
The Oakland Raiders wanted to sign defensive end Khalil Mack to a contract extension when they extended deals for quarterback Derek Carr and offensive lineman Gabe Jackson during the 2017 offseason. However, negotiations were short, and the team made it clear extending Mack’s contract would be a priority this offseason.
To date, no deal has been reached, and neither side appears to be making many concessions. Mack will undoubtedly be a Raider over the coming years (they can franchise tag him if no long-term agreement is reached) unless they get an irresistible trade offer. Trading arguably the best defender in the game in his prime would be both an on-field nightmare and public relations disaster. Sources say they expect a long-term deal by the start of the season, but negotiations could run deep into training camp.
Get It Done Before Camp
Should training camp come without a deal, Mack could hold out like offensive tackle Donald Penn in 2017. General manager Reggie McKenzie made it clear he doesn’t negotiate with players who aren’t in camp, but once Penn returned, a contract extension was signed swiftly. Given the magnitude of Mack’s probable long-term extension, negotiations are likely to be slightly different from Penn’s.
It’s not easy to establish a cultural transformation when one of your most influential players isn’t there to adapt.
Should Mack hold out of training camp, it could create a cascading effect throughout the entire defensive unit. The chemistry on the left side of the line, particularly on combination blocks, suffered from Penn’s holdout last season, a big reason why new coach Jon Gruden has stressed the importance of maximizing every snap in practice. Mack has it easier than Penn since his role is largely to get after the quarterback, but he will need to work on the variety of twists and stunts defensive coordinator Paul Guenther has installed.
Establishing a New Culture
Arguably the biggest change Gruden was hired to achieve was a cultural transformation within the organization. Former coach Jack Del Rio lost the locker room by the end of last year, leaving plenty of improvement necessary in that area.
One way Gruden will change things is by having established vets in each positional meeting room to mentor the younger players, along with leading by example. With Mack out, the Raiders are missing not only their best player but a leader in the locker room. It’s not easy to establish a cultural transformation when one of your most influential players isn’t there to adapt. That being said, his absence has led to an increased role for linebacker Bruce Irvin, now one of the team’s more prominent leaders. The trickle-down effect of Mack’s absence might prove beneficial in the long run.
Does He Have a Playbook?
There is no doubt whether Mack will be physically ready to go when he returns, but how will the holdout affect his mental makeup and ability to catch up with the defense? Carr has said he has spoken several times with the superstar this offseason, making one wonder whether he has passed down the playbook. Mack might not be in contact with coaches, but he remains under contract, so it isn’t a league violation. Possession of the playbook would help Mack reduce the effects of the time he has lost with the team.
For all the talk about how Gruden has changed the look of the organization, it might not matter if the Raiders can’t come to an agreement with Mack. Any coach can scribble a play down on paper, but there are few players who can execute it as well as No. 52.