I’ll start by saying having a guy like Khalil Mack on the Packers is a dream come true for a team desperate to pair a Super Bowl caliber defense with a Rodgers-led offense. The two things that harbingers of success in the NFL is an elite QB, or a pass rush that can disrupt even the best offenses. In trading for Mack, the Packers would exponentially increase their ability to win the Super Bowl this year. They also have the assets to do it. The problem is, it could cripple their ability to do much past 2019. So, what would this all look like? Let’s dive in to the arguments for and against adding Khalil Mack .
What adding Khalil Mack does for Green Bay
The Packers were in the bottom half of pass rushing units in the NFL last year, and with an aging Matthews and already injured Perry, there’s no certainty it can improve this year unless younger players improve dramatically. Mack would vault this unit into the top 10 if not higher.
Mack is in his prime and playing like an All-Pro on a mediocre defense in Oakland. Adding him to a team that has a strong defensive line and other edge rushers that need to be accounted for will only improve his standing as one of the best edge players in the league. It also decreases the dependence on players like Biegel, Gilbert and Fackrell to produce this year. It also probably frees Mike Pettine to use Matthews how he pleases, not strictly as an edge rusher.
I think, more importantly, it will mask the youth in the secondary. While there is a lot of optimism behind the likes of King, Alexander, and Jones, none of them has played a full season in the NFL. Being able to rush the passer consistently and effectively will allow for more mistakes in the secondary, which will happen frequently with a youthful secondary.
Adding someone like Mack with the additions to the defensive line and secondary has all the makings of a top 10 defense, and finally providing Rodgers with a championship caliber defense. What’s not to like? Well…
The Opportunity Cost
This is the big ‘if’ with any deal for Khalil Mack – what will it cost to acquire him? Khalil Mack is a Free Agent at the end of this season and is looking to be paid like a top 3 defender in the league, which he already is, arguably. So, what does a trade package for Mack look like? If he plans to sign elsewhere in Free Agency, I would imagine the Packers hang on to both of their 1st round picks. Depending on what the Raiders are asking for, and depending on what Mack is looking for in Free Agency. No team will pay a 1st round pick for a one year rental, except maybe New England whose Tom Brady window is nearly shut.
So, assume for a minute Green Bay does trade a 1st for Mack, what does that look like on Green Bay’s salary cap if they look to resign him? Von Miller currently owns the richest average contract dollars per year of any defensive player at $19 million. Mack is one of 2 players looking to eclipse that in 2019 (Aaron Donald being the other hold out), which would effectively take up approximately half of Green Bay’s 2019 salary cap (currently sitting at $38 million). The Packers have 7 potential opening day starters who are a free agent in some capacity after this season. Yes, Cobb and Matthews’ bloated contracts come off the books, but you effectively take their contracts and immediately give it to 1 player.
Let’s say you sign Mack to an extension around $19.1 million, you have only $18.9 million to spend elsewhere in Free agency and signing draft picks. Generally, draft picks cost anywhere from $6-10 Million to sign, so let’s just say $8 million dollars, conservatively. You have just over $10 million to extend expiring contracts or any free agents. What do your hopes of resigning Clinton-Dix look like? Wilkerson? Montgomery? Allison?
One of the things going for the Packers right now is their depth at multiple positions. While some of the contracts coming off the books are bloated, you still have players at the same position becoming Free Agents. You create more needs and less means of filling the gaps, sacrificing your depth and using draft picks and available cap space on necessities instead of letting the draft board fall your way or spending on multiple positions in free agency. It’s like giving up a kidney, lung, and parts of your liver, pancreas and intestine. Sure, your body will still function, but anything goes wrong with the remaining organs, and you’re in serious trouble. This also assumes nothing past 2019’s salary, and the Packers are sort of looking at locking up their franchise QB, and we know that won’t come cheap.
I make it sound like I am completely against a trade, but this ALL depends on compensation. If the Packers give up a 2nd rounder for Mack, and are able to resign him to a mutually beneficial contract, this trade is a no brainer. The problem is, Mack is looking to get paid like a top 3 defender, and the Raiders are looking to be compensated like they are losing one, too. Trading their extra 1st rounder on a rental is bad asset management, and I doubt Gutekunst takes the bait. Frankly, I don’t think any team will make this trade, and I think the Raiders let his contract expire – they will probably get a 3rd round compensatory pick for him
One of the reasons the Packers have been successful for so long is not hitching their boat to 1 year of success. They make calculated, long-term decisions that will allow them to be competitive year in and year out. It’s often not very sexy or fun, but that’s just the way this organization operates.
Make no mistake, even if they trade a 1st and lose Mack in Free Agency, it greatly improves their chances in 2019, but I will treat it like the Brewers trade for C.C. Sabathia – cheer for one of the best in the business, but understand it’s likely temporary.