IF the Oakland Raiders trade Khalil Mack, it better be for Rams DT Aaron Donald. There is nothing out there, no picks from Green Bay that would compensate the Raiders trading away the best draft selection they have made in decades.
I do not care if the Packers are the favorite to get Mack per Vegas’ odds; Green Bay has no business getting Mack. You would have to go back as far as Charles Woodson to find a Raiders drafted player that has had the impact of Mack this late. You might even have to go back further to Tim Brown or Marcus Allen to find the last Raiders first round selection that had franchise transcending abilities.
Moreover, is Khalil Mack and Aaron Donald even a fair swap? Would the Raiders or Rams agree to a swap if neither can a deal done for their player? Both players are in the fifth year of their rookie contracts and they’re holding out. Which elite defensive player from the 2014 NFL Draft will break the bank first? Various reports have had the two negotiating against each other. Either player could land anywhere between $60 and $100 million in guaranteed money which make both among the highest-paid defenders ever.
Khalil Mack or Aaron Donald?
There were reports that the Rams were close to a deal with Aaron Donald not too long ago. GM Les Snead said the two were in the same zip code for negotiations earlier this month while Sean McVay said he had dialogue with his defensive tackle last week. A deal was expected before the Raiders and Rams faceoff this week according to Jason La Canfora.
That probably means the Raiders would not even have a chance. Donald always had a faster track to a deal. The Rams have a culture of cashing out their players since they have extended many draft picks before the expirations of contracts and Donald held out last year as part of demands for a new deal. Donald also would have lost a season earned if he continues his holdout that means he would be a restricted free agent after this season, unlike Mack who has not held out before. Mack’s old coach said he is the complete player on and off the field too.
In addition, Donald has been one of the best players at his positions despite only making about $3 million the past two seasons. He currently is slated to make $6.9 million without a long-term extension.
Mack on the other hand, made about $5 million the past three seasons since he was a top-five pick. His salary also is $13.84 million now. That is partly because of draft stock and edge rushers have a higher overall value than interior rushers do.
If you compare the two, it is a great comparison. Both players have nine forced fumbles. Mack has four fumble recoveries and a pick six. Donald has 2 recoveries and no picks or scores. That is not a fair comparison considering edge rushers and hybrid linebackers should have more picks and turnovers.
Both players are reliable as Mack has appeared in 64 games while Donald has 62. Donald and Mack have both had one playoff game in their career. As for career sacks, Mack has the edge by 1.5. Donald is credited with 39 and Mack has 40.5. Both were among leaders in pressures every season including last year, per PFF. They also have high run grades and are among their team’s highest rated players.
Why the trade makes sense for both teams
We all know new defensive coordinator Paul Guenther needs a dominate three-technique just CC Geno Atkins who made a name for himself in that role in Cincinnati. The Raiders invested heavily in the interior defensive line every year in the draft since Reggie McKenzie took over including this season when they took Mo Hurst and P.J. Hall in the fifth and second round.
Still, they cannot be that in love since they recently signed Gabe Wright and they added Athyba Rubin before that.
Nonetheless, adding Aaron Donald to that group would give Guenther his person and make up for every McKenzie draft bust on that line. Not to mention, finding impactful defensive tackles is hard. Finding an edge rusher, especially one as versatile as Mack, is hard too but we see much more transcending talents at that position than the interior line. Donald has shown an ability to play in any scheme, like Mack, but he would be best for the Raiders 4-3 defense.
Think back to Warren Sapp in Tampa, not Oakland (LOL). His interior disruption arguably made everyone’s job easier for the Buccaneers. Donald could have that same impact in Oakland.
The Rams on the other hand need help at edge rusher and linebacker. Mack can play any of those positions but he would be especially great on the edge. The Rams already have Michael Brockers and Ndamukong Suh, which is a great interior d-line duo. Combine that with Mack and L.A. would still have a nasty pass rush. We saw what Wade Phillips did in Denver with Von Miller, imagine Mack? Disgusting thought if you like the Silver and Black but great if you like the Rams.
Why the trade does not make any sense
There are many differences between the two scenarios in L.A. and Oakland. Both teams are going through transitional phases but there is no question that Rams owner Stan Kroenke has deeper pockets than Mark Davis does. Kroenke and the Rams are also a year ahead of the Raiders in the relocation plan. Donald’s deal seems imminent due to the previous hold out and bigger pockets of Kroenke.
Nonetheless, Mack is the 2016 Defensive Player of the Year while Donald earned the honor last season. Mack was the first player to ever earn All-Pro honors at two positions while Donald has been a disruptive force in every scheme and alignment the Rams use too. You would really have to split hairs to discover which defensive player is more impactful for their respective teams. That is why a swap would actually make sense as a last ditch effort if contracts sour especially if you consider that neither defense was elite last year.
Regardless, you do not trade stars if you are the Raiders or Rams. You do not trade elite players that you have developed and put a scheme around. They are the leaders and creators of your defense culture, no matter who many camp practices they miss. This is not Madden. A new scene and team is a variable in players’ development no matter how great they are. Not to mention, all the good these men have both meant to their teams’ fans and community. It is not often you get as lucky as landing Donald or Mack.
Mack and Donald have both sat and watched members on their team get big deals. Mack saw fellow 2014 draft picks Gabe Jackson and Derek Carr get monster deals. Even Jelly Bean Ellis got above market value. Oakland brought in a huge turnover this past offseason too. Donald saw former defensive teammates Alec Ogletree and Robert Quinn get deals before they hit the market. He also saw players like Trumaine Johnson play on the franchise tag. Now, he watched Brandin Cooks and Todd Gurley get new deals before the season while talks are already going for Derek Carr.
The point is, it is time for both of these players to pay their franchise players. If a deal can’t be done, maybe they can swap players in a base case scenario. Sure a Mack and Donald makes sense since both players are elite and scheme-versatile but trading star players is never a good thing for your franchise. You draft players hoping they develop like Mack and Donald. When they do turn out that great, you pay them. Period.
Both Mack and Donald need to get paid
Either way, the season is a few weeks away and time is running for the Raiders and Rams. Both L.A. and Oakland want their players paid, happy and playing on Sundays.
If the Raiders are that far from a deal with Mack that they need to trade him, they would be smart to swap him for Donald. Still, that appears unlikely since a Donald deal is near. Thus, Oakland will be forced to either deal Mack or give him the kind of deal that would one-up whatever Donald signs.
If the Donald deals fall through, perhaps the Rams would be enticed by the potential of adding Mack to their pass rush. Oakland would be lucky to get Donald over whatever the Packers or another team offers. Getting an elite player back is the only way you keep your chances of winning when you have to trade a player that talented.
Regardless, someone is going to pay these two players. Hopefully, the team drafted them respectively.