Could The Superstar Pass Rusher Turn The Lions Into Contenders?
This week, the Lions are in Oakland, joining the Raiders in joint practices. One Raider is notably absent from these practices: Khalil Mack. Mack is currently holding out from showing up to training camp, he reportedly wants to be made the highest paid defensive player in the NFL.
Few will argue against the idea of Mack’s next contract setting records. He’s made 36.5 sacks over the last three season, has been named an NFL All-Pro twice and won the defensive player of the year award in 2016.
This makes the Raiders’ reluctance to sign him to a new deal extremely puzzling. He is the best player on their entire team by far, and one of the top players in the entire NFL. He is simply the kind of franchise player that you hold on to no matter what.
So, if the Raiders have decided against signing him, it would make sense for them to trade him, rather than let him walk in free agency and get a compensatory pick instead.
Enter the Detroit Lions. The Lions don’t have a player in their defensive front seven anywhere near Khalil Mack’s level. The Lions’ best pass rusher, Ziggy Ansah, has made 44 sacks in his first five seasons. Khalil Mack has 40.5 in just four.
Mack is also capable of playing linebacker at an extremely high level. He can drop into pass coverage, diagnose running plays and blitz better than any linebacker currently rostered by the Lions. This versatility would make him a perfect fit in rookie head coach Matt Patricia‘s defense.
However, to acquire Mack would cost the Lions. A lot. It would likely cost at least their 2019 and 2020 first round picks, and possibly even more than that.
The Lions actually aren’t in an awful position to give up some draft capital though. They already have eight total draft picks next year, plus they are expected to get at least one more compensatory pick for players leaving in free agency.
Say the Lions were to trade their 2019 first and second rounds picks and their 2020 first round pick for Khalil Mack. The would still have a third, fourth, two fifths, two sixths and a seventh-round pick in 2019, and one pick in each round after the first in 2020.
The Lions could also throw some players who will likely no longer be in Detroit next year into this hypothetical trade such as Theo Riddick, Ziggy Ansah or Golden Tate. Any of these players could drastically reduce the amount of draft picks Detroit would need to give up.
If the Lions were to trade for Mack, there is also the matter of giving him a new contract. The current rough baseline for Mack’s salary is Von Miller, who is signed to a six-year $114,100,000 deal. Mack reportedly also wants a six-year deal, but to break the $120,000,000 barrier.
If there is a defensive player worthy of $20,000,000/year, it is Khalil Mack. And the Lions have the money to make it happen. Next season, they are projected to have just under $39,000,000 in cap space, with the number going up to $95,000,000 in 2020.
At the end of the day, this trade is not likely to happen, but if Bob Quinn gets the chance I think he needs to pull the trigger. Khalil Mack would completely transform the Lions defense, and the Lions have the draft capital and salary cap space to still have a bright outlook for the future.