Reflecting on the Khalil Mack trade: Who won?

The dust has cleared away and It’s been nearly three years since one of the biggest NFL trades of the decade occurred. The trade that shocked the football world: Las Vegas Raiders trade Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears. The disgruntled All-Pro Mack was shipped along with a second-round pick and a fifth-round pick to the Bears for two first-rounders, a third-rounder, and a sixth-rounder. The question begs to ask as a few years have passed: which team won the blockbuster exchange?

What did the Raiders get?

Let’s start with the more mysterious case. The Raiders used the draft picks on Josh Jacobs, Damon Arnette, and Bryan Edwards. Jacobs has 2,215 combined rushing yards and 20 total touchdowns in his first two seasons. CB Damon Arnette was a rookie last year, but had bright moments and proved to be a locked-in starter heading into 2021. Then last, but not least: Bryan Edwards. Edwards had a mere 11 receptions for 193 yards and hasn’t shown yet that he will be a long-term fit in Gruden’s design.

At first glance, it may appear that the Raiders used the picks to get a few starting-caliber players. After looking closer, it’s evident that Las Vegas didn’t get a highly gifted asset, nor multiple profiles that seem to change the tide of the game. Jacobs was a quality addition, but there’s lots of reason to believe the Raiders would have found a player at the less prioritized RB position with near the same production.

The Raiders cleared lots of money off the books with pardoning Mack, but haven’t broken the bank on any notable acquisitions to date. There’s little reason to believe that any extensions would have been impossible by retaining the All-Pro defender.

What did the Bears get?

The Bears were gifted a future Hall of Fame pass rusher from Gruden’s squad. Mack was a Defensive Player of The Year type of player for the Raiders and continued to be top of the barrell in the Windy City. 

Mack knocked out 12.5 sacks and was All-Pro in his first year of vengeance as a Bear. Over the past two seasons, Mack registered 8.5+ sacks each year. Mack hasn’t reclaimed his All-Pro status, but his attention has been met in nearly every game. His contributions have also been indispensable amid a team that’s reached the playoffs with dreadful QB performances.

The Bears have reached the playoffs and now have found a very talented franchise QB in Justin Fields, despite giving up the hefty draft compensation. There have been sputters of damage put on the Bears offense with its lack of talent, but they’ve leaned on their defense — which has come through on plenty of occasions. On the outlook, Mack is only 30 years old and clearly holds a few more seasons of high performance. 

Verdict:

The Bears win the Khalil Mack trade. The Raiders discovered a quality RB in Josh Jacobs, along with a couple of other quality contributors. Yet, Gruden’s choices of talent to be picked with the draft picks obtained from the Mack trade and extra cap space have not even obtained an elite standard as a whole. Mack continues to be a player that changes the game — whether he’s making the play, or creating opportunities for another teammate. The Bears hold an elite Hall of Fame player on a team that’s found their franchise QB and will look to return to the playoffs in the likely Rodgers less NFC North.

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