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If you are New York Jets General Manager Mike Maccagnan, do you trade for Khalil Mack now? If so, what would you be willing to give up?
Michael Nania (@Michael_Nania)
If I could get Mack for my first rounder in each of the next two drafts, I would do it in a heartbeat and not look back. At first glance it looks like an enormous price, and it absolutely is, but you have to understand the value Mack has to a football team. He is a consistently dominant superstar-level player at what is arguably the game’s second most important position. Not to mention, the position whose horrifying scarcity in Florham Park has consistently held the Jets defense back for a very long time.
Mack has racked up 36.5 sacks over the past three seasons – second most in the league to only Chandler Jones. He’s thrown in at least 22 quarterback hits in each of the past three seasons and has a total of 30 tackles for loss over that span, tied for 11th in the league. His 8 forced fumbles are tied for 9th in the league.
Mack is the only player in the league with 30+ sacks and 150+ solo tackles since 2015, and joins Aaron Donald as the only players with 30+ sacks and 30+ tackles for loss. Among the top 100 players in solo tackles since 2015, Von Miller and Melvin Ingram are the only players close to Mack in sacks (with 34.5 and 29.0, respectively) – the next closest player has only 12.0.
The man is an all-word talent at the Jets’ biggest position of need, whose addition would instantly raise the ceiling of any defense to limitless levels. After all, no defense in today’s NFL can truly have the ability to reach its ultimate ceiling without talent on the edge. You may cringe at his somewhat rising age (27) or the fact that he will soon be due a gargantuan contract – but neither factor matters. Mack’s resume could not possibly yield more confidence that he will continue to produce at an elite level for at least another 3-4 years. He has started 65 of 65 possible games since entering the league and despite his age has only four seasons of mileage under his belt. As for the money, few teams, if any, are as financially equipped as the Jets to handle a longterm megadeal for a star.
First round picks are dice rolls for young talent – not the surefire additions of great cornerstone talent fans often mistake them to be. Of the 88 defensive ends/outside linebackers drafted from 1997-2016, 28 (32%) have made at least one Pro Bowl. Only 17 (19%) have made at least two. Only four – J.J. Watt, Ryan Kerrigan, Chandler Jones, and Joey Bosa – are currently averaging more sacks per season than Mack’s 10.1. The odds are very strong you will not find a talent like Mack with either of those first round picks. You must also consider that the Jets in their current state are poised to see their next two first round picks fall in the 12-20 range. They aren’t going to be in the top ten where hit rates skyrocket. If you can give up two mid-first round picks to get a versatile, every-down, run/pass terminator in his prime to add to your ascending defense, you take the deal and run.
Clayton Smarslok (@ClaySmars)
If I were the General Manager of the New York Jets in some fantasy land and had a chance to trade for Khalil Mack there’s something wrong. Not that there’s something wrong with me being the GM but that a talent like Mack doesn’t and shouldn’t become available, yet here we are.
This is actually my second time writing through this because I was initially opposed to the idea of giving up two first round picks in order to get him. But as I went through each reason, I kept thinking, “It’s Khalil Mack!”. They aren’t guaranteed a player of this caliber in the draft nor anywhere else. Yes, Nick Bosa looks like he’ll be a future star and Jonah Williams could be a franchise LT, but the Jets would most likely need yet another top 6 pick and I truthfully don’t see that happening for the 3rd straight year. Especially if Mack is on the team, they could realistically compete for a playoff spot in a weak AFC.
It would hurt to not have two consecutive first round picks but then again.. do you think the Rams are complaining after giving up their last two firsts and more to get Jared Goff and Brandin Cooks? Like the Rams, the Jets now have their QB of the future in place already and as of now the most cap space headed into 2019. If they can fill some holes in free agency and actually hit on a mid round pick at another spot, the team is in great shape.
Khalil Mack is a relatively young (turns 28 in February) top talent, with no prior injury concerns and plays probably the second most important position in today’s game. In addition to that, because the position remains a huge need after 10+ years, it only makes more sense. It may be a tough call to some but I say give them the two firsts, sign him long term and don’t look back.
Greg Armstrong (@gregarmstrong_)
1000% yes. When you can acquire an elite edge rusher (something the Jets haven’t had since the John Abraham days) you absolutely do it. The Jets have Sam Darnold on a rookie deal and the only player they have to worry about paying is Leonard Williams. Getting Mack would take a substantial amount of pressure of Big Cat and free him up to do Big Cat things. It would also help the secondary in that you can now play what Todd Bowles wants in more man to man coverage. You don’t have to worry about generating a pass rush because you’ll have one in Khalil Mack, which can free you up to do a lot more on defense.
As far as what I would give up? I would start with two firsts or a first and a second. Depending on the compensation you get for trading Teddy Bridgewater, you can package picks and still not sell the farm to get Mack. I know the talk has been “well why give up a first when you can draft a Nick Bosa”. Known quantity > unknown quantity. Ideally Bosa becomes the dominant pass rusher most expect but you’re still taking a chance. Mack is elite at one of the most important positions in football outside of quarterback and the Jets are going to have upwards of $100 million in cap space next season to pay him what the Raiders don’t want to.
The Jets aren’t far off as far as roster construction goes. They need to improve the linebacker spot, edge rusher and offensive line. You’re not going to find an elite edge outside of Round 1 but you can find good to great offensive linemen and linebackers if you do your homework. Take the swing on Mack and let’s get this party started.
Dalbin Osorio (@da_osorio)
This is the easiest question we’ve ever had when we’ve come around the TOJRoundtable: yes. Maccagnan should absolutely trade for Khalil Mack, and he is an absolute game changer on the defense. There are people that will argue that he would do better by holding on to the picks and signing Mack as a free agent, but this line of thinking is what led Lakers fans to create pictures of Paul George in a Lakers uniform only to see him end up elsewhere. From a purely logical standpoint, yes, trading for Mack makes 109% sense.
For Todd Bowles, he’d have the most disruptive pass rusher in the league in the prime of his career, and a weapon that he can deploy with Leo Williams to really take this defense to the next level. Mack slots right in at OLB, and pairs with Jordan Jenkins (who appears poised to take that next level) to give the Jets defense a very good bookend. With Darron Lee and Avery Williamson, and the aforementioned Leo up front bookended by Canadian Thanos Nathan Sheppard and Henry Anderson? With Trumaine Johnson, Morris Claiborne, Jamal Adams, and Marcus Maye? That is a damn good defense that would contend for, at worst, a top 3 defense on paper. The pieces all fit very well, and would give the Jets a puncher’s chance to make the playoffs this year.
Make the move Mike.
I’d be absolutley stunned if Jon Gruden and the Raiders allowed Khalil Mack to get out of Oakland (Las Vegas?). He is easily one of the most valuable players in the league and they should be doing everything in their power to keep him in the silver and black. However, I’ve seen dumber things in this league happen, so if I’m the Jets I’d definitley sniff around. As Chris Nimbley said on our podcast this week, it’s not about the Jets’ lack of interest stating the decision makers in Florham Park are “100% interested.” However being interested and doing are completely different things, I’m “100% interested” in dating Rihanna, but it’s not going to happen and this may also be the case with the Jets and Mack.
After trading this year’s 2nd round pick in the deal for Sam Darnold, the Jets don’t neccesarily have a large amount of assets to gamble with. They certainly have the need for Mack, and apparently the desire, but they might not have the means. It all depends on the Raiders’ asking price, they aren’t a Madden CPU, so the price is going to be high. If it’s just a 2019 first? I’d do it in a heartbeat, even knowing we wouldn’t pick until round three. He’s that good. Plus, what’s the likelihood the Jets would draft somebody even close to Mack, especially considering there’s a high chance that pick would be used on a pass rusher anyways. If one or two mid-round picks are thrown in, I’d still probably do it. However, I would not do it for anything more. This is a terrific free agency and draft class for edge rushers, if the price includes multiple firsts, seconds, and other assets etc, save your draft capital and get another really good pass rusher, o-line help, and more weapons for your rookie QB.
All in all I think this is one of those situations that is fun to dream about but won’t ultimatley happen for the above reason. The Raiders can’t be that stupid, they’ll pay him. And if they don’t, that price will probably be too steep for a team that has finally put itself on the right track to success.