Thought’s on Khalil Mack’s Contract Situation

The Raiders situation with Khalil Mack seems to have no end in sight. Mack has sat out all of the preseason despite the potential for significant fines and now reports are that he plans to miss regular season games while looking for an extension. Unlike the other notable holdouts of Aaron Donald and Earl Thomas there are really no leaks on this one. Donald is apparently close while the Seahawks have let it be known that they just want him to play it out.  There is far less indication of what the Raiders have in mind here.

Mack is a devastating player. He is a three time pro bowler, two time all pro, 5th overall pick and has had 36.5 sacks in the last three years.  His best comparison would be Von Miller who signed a $19.083 million contract in 2016.  Adjusted for inflation that contract is worth $21.8 million in 2018, which should be the number that Mack looks for on a new contract.

There could be a number of reasons Oakland doesn’t want to go there. Maybe they just don’t think a defender is worth it given that the team defense hasn’t been any good with Mack. Maybe they don’t have the money to set aside up front as mandated by the CBA to cover large guarantees. Maybe they just don’t want to be the first team to hit $20M a year for a non-QB. Whatever the reason nobody wins if Mack is not on the field in 2018.

The Raiders have most of the leverage here. Mack is under contract and he losses nearly $815,000 every time he misses a game. He likely wont make that money back up. If he sits the whole season his contract simply tolls to 2019 and he is in the same position he is in right now. So he is stuck.

My first thought of an option might be that Mack returns, pays whatever forfeited/fined preseason money and received a no franchise tag provision. However there is no reason for Oakland to do that. That gives up too much leverage for them within the rules of the NFL. The tag lets them maintain his rights and the ability to trade him. They should not agree to that.

The next best option is probably a raise for this year so that his contract over the next few years can hit the market prices. Right now he will earn around $14 million in 2018 and then assuming two franchise tags another $40 million in non guaranteed earnings. That would be just under $40 million in two year new money and $53 million over three years. Those numbers would be more in line with Olivier Vernon and Justin Houston who are $17 million players.

The calculations change if the Raiders increase his base salary this year to $16 or $17 million. The franchise tag then for Mack would be equal to 120% of his 2018 salary rather than the actual tag. That would bring his two year new salary between $42.2 and $44.8 million and total 3 year between $58 and $62 million. At the very least that would bring him in line with the $19 million players and make it worth it to report.

Here is a table that would outline the salaries and payouts. Please note that in Mack’s case the two year “new” payout is years 2 and 3 while in the Miller comparison its years 1 and 2 of the new contract.

YearCurrentRaise 1Raise 2Miller Comp
Year 1$13,846,000$16,000,000$17,000,000$25,500,000
Year 2$18,000,000$19,200,000$20,400,000$16,500,000
Year 3$21,600,000$23,040,000$24,480,000$19,000,000
2 Year New$39,600,000$42,240,000$44,880,000$42,000,000
3 Year Total$53,446,000$58,240,000$61,880,000$61,000,000

For the Raiders this might get Mack to report which gives Gruden a chance to evaluate him in person.  It doesn’t force them into a heavy cash commitment right now nor would it hurt their ability to trade him next year under the franchise tag. They can also just walk away at any point if they choose to do so. Yes they would need to give him a raise but its not like teams have never given players a raise before to end a holdout.

Mack would still have a year by year chance to receive the long term extension and would at least have an opportunity to be closer to market if the tag process plays out. In three years he would get that shot at free agency as he would never get tagged a third time. He does not get any long term job security under this scenario and still has an injury risk but that is the unfortunate circumstances of his contract and the CBA.  Since he can’t change that I would think this is the best alternative.

We’ll see how it plays out this week but thought it was a possibility worth exploring for the two sides to get back on the same page moving forward.

Questions about this article? Reach Jason Fitzgerald on Twitter at @jason_otc